Pope Francis has made today, the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, an International Day of Prayer against Human Trafficking. Anthony Brown, the parish and local coordinator against human trafficking explains:
Saint Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of trafficking victims, was born in Sudan in 1869. Captured by Arab slavers she was sold in the markets of El Obeid and Khartoum until finally bought by the Italian Consul, Callisto Legnani. For the first time since the day she was kidnapped, she found that no one used the lash when giving her orders; instead, she was treated with love and as one of the family.
Callisto returned to Italy and when he and his family had again to move abroad he left Bakhita in the care of the Canossian sisters, an Italian Religious order. There, she came to know and experience God’s love. She had always believed in God but had never known who he was until then. In January 1890, Bakhita was baptised Josephine and made her First Holy Communion. When Callisto returned, with unusual courage, she expressed her desire to remain with the Canossian sisters. She had by then come of age and enjoyed the freedom of choice which Italian law guaranteed.
On 8 December 1896 Josephine Bakhita made her religious vows and for the next 50 years lived in the Canossian community, involved in various services: cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending to all who called at the convent door, especially the poor and those in trouble. Her sisters in the community esteemed her for her constant sweet nature, exquisite goodness and deep desire to share her love of Jesus with others.
As she grew older she experienced long, painful years of sickness but always responded to people with a smile. She died on 8 February 1947 surrounded by the sisters. A crowd quickly gathered at the convent to have a last look at their ‘Mother Moretta’, their ‘Dark Mother’, and ask for her prayers.
I have ordered 200 prayer cards for Sunday 8 February and hope that you will take one from the porch and pray for the victims of human trafficking.
Sunday 8th February is also Caritas Sunday, when we are invited to be part of the rich heritage of charity in our diocese and to reflect on the part that we all as members of our church and community have to play in bringing about a fair and compassionate society
There is a retiring collection today for Caritas which supports people living on the margins of society and who are often overlooked by statutory bodies.