Saint Josephine Bakhita

Saint Josephine Bakhita was the first black woman to be canonised in the modern era.

Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita was born in 1869 in the village of Olgossa in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Around February 1877, Arab slave traders kidnapped Bakhita and, during her time in captivity, she lived a life of immense suffering. On one occasion, she as forced to walk barefoot over 600 miles to a slave market in El Obeid, where she was sold at least twice during the gruelling journey.

After several years of slavery and abuse, Bakhita was placed in the custody of the Canossian Daughters of Charity, the Canossian Sisters, in Venice. It was here that Bakhita came to learn about God. She was deeply moved by her time with the sisters and discerned a call to follow Christ.

When speaking of her enslavement, Bakhita said she would often thank her kidnappers – had it not been for her kidnapping, she may never known the love of Jesus Christ.

Bakhita is a symbol of endurance and the power of faith. Saint Josephine Bakhita is the patron saint of Sudan, and her feast day is celebrated on 8 February.

In 1958, Josephine Bakhita’s process of canonisation began for under Pope John XXIII. On 1 December 1978, Pope John Paul II declared her Venerable. She was beatified in 1992 before being declared a saint, the first black woman to canonised in the modern era, in 2000.


By Fr Mark E. Odion MSP, Policy and Research Analyst at the Bishops’ Conference.

“Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita is a symbol of hope in the midst of suffering. She saw her enslavement as a process leading her to Christ, the author of her salvation. She never regretted her enslavement but thanked her slave masters for leading her to Christ.

“Saint Josephine Margaret Bakhita has inspired me in my everyday practice to always trust in Christ in the midst of any difficulty that I find myself.

“In her, I see a model teaching me not to complain in difficult situations but to always trust that there is light at the end of the tunnel – the light of Christ. She has taught me to always have faith in God, especially in times of suffering. In her hope, she came to know God and treasure the process of her salvation.

“Saint Josephine Bakhita, pray for us.”