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St. Josephine Bakhita: A Super Bowl MVP

A grassroots movement is under way to designate St. Josephine Bakhita as the patron saint for human trafficking victims.

The proximity of this year’s Super Bowl to the heart of our community here at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods has made us painfully aware of the issue of human trafficking.

It is a sad fact that one of the major ways that human trafficking occurs in our country is at major sporting events where hundreds, in some case, thousands of women, children and teens are brought in as sex slaves for human traffickers.

Our efforts to create awareness around this issue have led us to the discovery of St. Josephine Bakhita who, at the age of 7, was kidnapped from her home in the Sudan and over the next eight years was sold and resold into slavery five times.

During her captivity, she endured debilitating beatings and bodily mutilation. She was finally taken to Italy where she served as a nanny to the daughter of her final owner. It was there she met the Canossian sisters.

Her release from bondage mirrors many of the same ingredients necessary today to help victims of human trafficking. When Bakhita made it clear she did not wish to leave Italy with her “owner,” the Canossian sisters appealed to the authorities on her behalf. The court ruled in Bakhita’s favor, and she found herself in control of her destiny for the first time in her life.

At the time of her canonization in 2000, Pope John Paul II said, “In St. Josephine Bakhita we find a shining advocate of genuine emancipation. The history of her life inspires not passive acceptance but the firm resolve to work effectively to free girls and women from oppression and violence, and to return to them their dignity in the full exercise of their rights.”

In these days before the Super Bowl we are praying to St. Josephine Bakhita for that same resolve. Please join in that prayer:

Creator of us all, our words cannot express what our minds can barely comprehend and our hearts feel when we hear of children and adults deceived and transported to unknown places for purposes of sexual exploitation and forced labor because of human greed.

Our hearts are saddened and our spirits angry that their dignity and rights are being transgressed through threats, deception and force. We cry out against the degrading practice of trafficking and seek ways for it to end.

Strengthen the fragile-spirited and broken-hearted. Make real your promises to fill these our sisters and brothers with a love that is tender and good and send the exploiters away empty-handed. Give us the wisdom and courage to stand in solidarity with them, that together we will find ways to the freedom that is your gift to all of us. Amen.

— Gen Cassani, SSND, (Used with permission.)

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Sister Dawn Tomaszewski

Sister Dawn Tomaszewski was elected General Superior of the Sisters of Providence in 2016. She has been a Sister of Providence since 1975. Previously she ministered as a teacher, as communication and development director for the sisters and their ministries and as a member of elected leadership on the general council of the Sisters of Providence.

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