The patron saint of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking, and of Migrants is celebrated on 8th February. On this day Catholics are encouraged to pray for all those affected by the crimes of modern slavery and human trafficking, and the people that volunteer and work to eradicate this crime.
St Josephine Bakhita, also known as ‘Mother Moretta’ and the Universal Sister was kidnapped at the age of nine and sold into slavery. Such was the trauma experienced that she forgot her birth name and her kidnappers gave her the name Bakhita meaning ‘fortunate’. Flogging and maltreatment were part of her daily life. She experienced the moral and physical humiliations associated with slavery.
It was only in 1882 that her suffering was alleviated after she was bought for the Italian Consul. This event was to transform her life. In this family and, subsequently in a second Italian home, she received from her masters, kindness, respect, peace and joy.
A change in her owner’s circumstances meant that she was entrusted to the Canossian Sisters and her next fifty years were spent witnessing God’s love through cooking, sewing, embroidery and attending to the door. She was a source of encouragement and her constant smile won people’s hearts, as did her humility and simplicity.
As she grew older she experienced long, painful years of sickness, but she continued to persevere in hope, constantly choosing the good. During her last days she relived the painful days of her slavery and more than once begged: ‘Please, loosen the chains… they are heavy!’.
Surrounded by the sisters, she died on 8 February 1947. February 8 has been designated as a day of prayer, reflection and action to end the injustice of human trafficking.
Prayer to St. Josephine Bakhita
Saint Josephine Bakhita, as a child, you were sold as a slave and had to spend untold difficulties and suffering.
Once freed from your physical slavery, you found the true redemption in your encounter with Christ and his Church.
Oh, St. Bakhita, help those who are trapped in slavery; intercede on their behalf before God so that they are freed from the chains of captivity.
May God free anyone who has been enslaved by man.
Provide relief to those who survive slavery and allow them to see Him as a model of faith and hope.
Help all survivors to find healing for their wounds.
We beg you to pray and intercede for those who are enslaved among us.
Quotations from St. Josephine Bakhita:
O Lord, if I could fly to my people and tell them of your Goodness at the top of my voice: oh, how many souls would be won!
I have given everything to my Master: He will take care of me… The best thing for us is not what we consider best, but what the Lord wants of us!
Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself, ‘Who could be the Master of these beautiful things?’ I felt a great desire to see him, to know him and to pay him homage.
I received the Sacrament of Baptism with such joy that only angels could describe…
If I were to meet the slave-traders who kidnapped me and even those who tortured me, I would kneel and kiss their hands, for if that did not happen, I would not be a Christian and Religious today…
The Lord has loved me so much: we must love everyone… we must be compassionate!
Mary protected me even before I knew her!
When a person loves another dearly, he desires strongly to be close to the other: therefore, why be afraid to die?
Death brings us to God!
Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!