The canonization of St. Josephine Bakhita, the first
modern African woman saint, took place in Rome on October 1, 2000. For those who
remember their church history the last African woman saint was St. Monica, the
mother of St. Augustine. Josephine was born in Western Sudan in 1869. She was
kidnapped and enslaved at the age of 6 or 7 by Arab traders and given the name
“Bakhita” which means "fortunate" by her captors. She was bought and sold five
times before going to Italy and eventually getting her freedom. She became a
Canossian Sister and humbly served in the congregation as a cook, seamstress and
doorkeeper. Over the years she gained a reputation for sanctity. When she died
on February 8, 1947 for several days a long line of mourners filed past her
coffin for a final goodbye. Sudan’s persecuted Christian minority identifies
with Bakhita’s simple and profound faith. A Sudanese bishop states:
"For all of us, Bakhita is a symbol of suffering and hope.
People who even today experience the drama of slavery, incursions, bombings and
want, identify with Bakhita, the girl who was enslaved and deported from El
Obeid; very many fugitives, close to four million, relive the drama of enforced
exile from their land. However, they also recognize the great strength of
spirit, tenacity to overcome difficulties and humility in placing oneself at the
service of others. They find protection and help in Bakhita."
The Canossian Sisters promote St. Josephine Bakhita as a
saint of social justice and of girl and women’s rights especially on the
continent of Africa.