Black Saints: Josephine Bakhita

Tapestry of St. Josephine Bakhita hangs from St. Peter's Basilica during her canonization ceremony. (CNS photo/L'Osservatore Romano via Reuters) (Sept. 5, 2008)
This article appears in the Black Saints feature series. View the full series.

Nov. 9 St. Josephine Bakhita

Did you know that the first African woman to be canonized as a saint by the Church in 21st century lived her entire childhood as a slave?

When just a little girl, Saint Josephine Bakhita (Bah-KEE-tah), was kidnapped from her loving family in the Sudan, and sold into brutal slavery. Her different “owners” frequently beat and tortured her. Finally when she was sold to an Italian diplomat, at age 14, St. Josephine Bakhita received Christian instruction for the first time from the Sisters of Charity in Venice, Italy. Later, when the diplomat’s family returned to Africa, Saint Josephine Bakhita refused to go with them. She remained within the protection of the Sisters’ convent in Italy, where slavery was illegal. For the next 50 years, she joyfully and faithfully served as the convent’s cook, seamstress, sacristan, and doorkeeper until her death in 1947.

This is copyrighted material, used with the permission of the Archdiocese of Washington, Office of Black Catholics

More about Black Catholic history

Blacks in Catholic Christianity have a long and vibrant history.

Much of that history is generally unknown to Black Catholics as well as to the rest of the faithful. On July 24, 1990, the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus of the United States designated November as Black Catholic History Month to celebrate this long history and proud heritage of Black Catholics. During this month we celebrate the presence of our ancestors who kept the faith and are models of living the Gospel life.

November is Black Catholic History Month, read more about it.

Sign up for our daily Black Catholic Saints email during the month of November to learn more about these holy men and women.

Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts and reactions to Letters to the Editor. Learn more here