Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Saint Josephine Bakhita of Sudan (1868–1947)

Saint Josephine Bakhita of Sudan (1868–1947)

Patron saint of Sudan and human trafficking survivors

Feast day: February 8

In 1869, in a small village in the Sudan, in Africa, Bakhita (the “fortunate one” in a Sudanese language) was born. At the age of nine, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. During her teenage years, she experienced unspeakable brutalities.

In 1883, she was sold to an Italian family living in Africa and became the caretaker for a young girl. Bakhita traveled with the child to a boarding school in Italy. The Catholic sisters at the school introduced her to the gospel. She knew in her heart that God wanted her to be free, but the owners wanted her, their “property,” to return to the Sudan.

Bakhita prayed to the Lord for strength. She heard God’s call, and she knew he wanted her for the Church’s work and nothing else. She was going to stay in Italy, no matter what. Soon she discovered that slavery was illegal in Italy. This meant that she could not be forced to return to the Sudan.

On January 9, 1890, she was baptized and took the name Josephine Bakhita. She then began to hear God’s voice calling her to dedicate her life to him more fully. She responded by joining a community of sisters and serving God, whom she called the Master. Her holiness was known all around her town.

She died in 1947 and was canonized a saint in 2000. She was the first native Sudanese to become a saint. (From The Catholic Connections Handbook for Middleschoolers [Saint Mary’s Press])

(Image © Vicki Shuck/Saint Mary's Press)