Claim to fame: Josephine Bakhita was born in Sudan in 1869 and kidnapped when she was 7 years old and sold into slavery. The girl was so traumatized by the experience that she was unable to remember her name and her captors gave her the name Bakhita, which means “fortunate one.”
After enduring much suffering as a slave for eight years, she was brought to Italy and left in the care of the Canossian Sisters. Under their care, Bakhita was baptized and given the new name of Josephine. In 1896 she joined the sisters permanently.
Why she is a saint: As doorkeeper for 45 years in the Schio community in northern Italy, she had much contact with the community and provided comfort to the poor and suffering. Her humility, simplicity and constant smile won the hearts of the citizens.
Although Josephine Bakhita was not known for miracles or supernatural experiences, Pope John Paul II praised her for “leaving us a message of reconciliation and evangelic forgiveness in a world so much divided and hurt by hatred and violence.”
In St. Josephine’s words: “If I was to meet those slave raiders that abducted me and those who tortured me, I’d kneel down to them to kiss their hands, because if it had not been for them, I would not have become a Christian and religious woman.”
How she died: At the end of her life Josephine endured many long, painful years of sickness. In her last days her mind returned to her days of slavery and she would cry out: “Please, loosen the chains … they are so heavy.” She died on Feb. 8, 1947.