St Josephine Bakhita, the patron saint of South Sudan and Sudan, is also patron saint of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking. Her Feast is 8 February, and last weekend, the parishioners of the Diocese of Parramatta, including many from the Sudanese and South Sudanese Community celebrated with a Memorial Mass at Mary, Queen of the Family Parish in Blacktown.
“It is a big day today indeed for our community,” said the parish’s Deacon John Cinya with a hearty smile as he welcomed everyone inside the church.
The Memorial Mass on 19 February was celebrated by Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, who spoke of turning the other cheek when faced with adversity.
“Jesus offers a nonviolent form of resistance that allows the people to keep their humanity and dignity while not cooperating with the various systems of domination that demean, devalue and discard them. We can turn the other cheek and still have dignity. We can still go the extra mile and keep intact our humanity, so that the world can become a better place and our adversaries can change positively,” encouraged Bishop Vincent in his homily.
The Mass was organised by members of the Diocese of Parramatta Modern Slavery Working Group. Along with members of the Sudanese and South Sudanese communities, guests included the Member for Mount Druitt, Mr Edmund Atalla, as well as Dr Valentine Mukuria, Dean of the Australian Catholic University Blacktown Campus, which is named after the saint. Other attendees included representatives from Catholic Schools in the Diocese, universities, social services and the Archdiocese of Sydney.
Moses Opondo, member of the Parramatta Modern Slavery Working Group, shared his heartfelt thanks to the congregation and explained the use of “shukran” meaning ‘thank you’ in Sudanese Arabic. Translations of the Prayers of the Faithful were also printed in local community languages including Nuba, Dinka, Zande, Madi and Arabic.
When asked about his thoughts about the Memorial of St Josephine, Edmund Atalla MP said he was “grateful for the Catholic community” for the prayers and recognition of victims of modern slavery and human trafficking.
This deep sense of gratitude echoed through all the elements of the day – the kind of gratitude that uplifts an individual’s spirit and the spirit of the whole community present, evoking deep thought and hope for change.
Peace, Justice and Ecology Facilitator in the Diocese of Parramatta, James Atanasious, says that St Josephine Bakhita’s story resonates with the Catholics of today.
”The Catholic family came together as one to remember St Josephine Bakhita, the Patron Saint of South Sudan and Sudan and Patron Saint of the Victims of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking,” he said.
“I encourage all Catholics to read more about Bakhita’s story which is full of hope.”
About St Bakhita (1869-1947)
St Josephine Bakhita’s life is a powerful witness to all ‘that transformation is possible through suffering’ which is a message of hope for our world and fighting against injustice. From the age of nine, she was kidnapped, and later bought and sold many times into slavery, suffering great brutality. Josephine was treated kindly by the Canossian Sisters who accompanied her faith journey. In 1890, she was baptised and received all the sacraments from the Cardinal who would later be Pope Pius X. In 1893, she joined the Canossian Sisters and served as a cook and doorkeeper. Growing older, she experienced long, painful years of sickness. St Josephine was canonised by Pope St John Paul II in 2000.
View images from the Memorial of St Josephine Bakhita here
Watch the recording of the livestream of the Mass on the Diocese of Parramatta YouTube channel.
Get in contact with James from the Peace, Justice and Ecology Team at the Diocese of Parramatta to find out more information on becoming involved in social justice. Details at https://parracatholic.org/socialjustice/