Sermon: Mother Josephine Bakhita

Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born in Sudan in 1869. Around the time she was eight years old, Arab slave traders kidnaped her. Over the next eight years, she would be bought and sold at least twelve times, frequently being severely mistreated. She was eventually brought to Italy and, while her owners were away, was placed in the care of the Canossian Sisters in Venice, where she learned about God.

When her owners returned from their journey, Josephine refused to leave the convent, so the sisters put up a legal challenge to her removal. Through that process, it was discovered that Josephine had been sold into slavery after it had been outlawed in Sudan, so she was not legally enslaved and therefore given her freedom.

At that time, Josephine could have gone and made her way in the world, but instead chose to remain at the convent and was baptized. She would take her vows with the Canossian Daughters of Charity in 1896 and live the remainder of her life, forty-two years, at the convent in Schio, Vicenza, Italy, where she served as a cook and doorkeeper. She was affectionately known as Little Brown Sister and very respectfully called Black Mother.

She said, given the opportunity, instead of cursing her kidnappers, she would thank them, for had she remained in Sudan, she would never have come to know Jesus.

Today, in our Psalm (91), we prayed:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
abides under the shadow of the Almighty.
He shall say to the Lord,
“You are my refuge and my stronghold,
my God in whom I put my trust.”
He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter
and from the deadly pestilence.
He shall cover you with his pinions,
and you shall find refuge under his wings.

I wonder what thoughts Josephine may have had when she first read those words. How she remembered taking refuge in the shelter of the convent, being released from the snare of slavery, and watched over by the sisters and her Loving God.

When asked about her loving God, she said that, as a child, “She had experienced in her heart without knowing who He was. Seeing the sun, the moon, and the stars, I said to myself: Who could be the Master of these beautiful things? And I felt a great desire to see him, to know Him, and to pay Him homage.” Having been a slave and had many masters, it is interesting that she referred to God as her Master. When asked about the hardships in her life, she would sweetly smile and reply, “As the Master desires.”

She died on this day in 1947. Her last words, “Our Lady, Our Lady!” On that day, we can say with assurance that her Master and ours said to her, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”

2 Replies to “Sermon: Mother Josephine Bakhita”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this. The stories of the saints are always a source of inspiration that we struggle the same as they did. Struggle in forgiveness, love and hope the same as their saviour.

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