WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Refugee centre honours former slave

BakhitaApr07.jpg The Bakhita Training Centre for refugees was opened last month in Upper Hutt.

The project is an initiative of McGirr Associates, St Josephs School and Robert Byer, Community Development Officer from the Sudanese community.

The centre’s main aim is to educate parents and help them achieve NZQA basic computer skills and participate in the ESOL programme.

Other skills offered will include customer service and business English.

The centre is open to all ethnicities. The launch was attended by members of Governmental and non-Governmental organisations as well as many from the local community.

Josephine Bakhita is the Patron Saint of Sudan. http://www.catholic-forum.com/SAINTS/saintj84.htm

She was born in 1868 in Darfur to a wealthy Sudanese family, but kidnapped by slave-traders at age nine. They gave her the name Bakhita.

She was sold and resold in the markets at El Obeid and Khartoum, until finally Italian consul, Callisto Legnani, bought her in 1883, planning to free her.

She accompanied Legnani to Italy in 1885, and worked as a nanny for the family of Augusto Michieli. She was treated well in Italy, and grew to love the country.

An adult convert, she joined the Church on 9 January 1890, and took the name of Josephine as a symbol of her new life.

She entered the Institute of Canossian Daughters of Charity in Venice, Italy, in 1893, taking her vows on 8 December 1896 in Verona, and serving as a Canossian Sister for the next 50 years.

Her gentle presence, warm, amiable voice, and her willingness to help with any menial task were a comfort to the poor and suffering people who came to the door of the Institute.

After a biography of her was published in 1930, she became a noted and sought after speaker, raising funds to support missions. She died in Italy on 8 February 1947. Pope John Paul II beatified her on 17 May 1992 and she was canonised on 1 October 2000 at Saint Peter’s Basilica, Rome. She is thought to be the only saint originally from Sudan.

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