Celebrating the Feast of St Josephine Bakhita

On Saturday 8 February 2020, members of the Bexley Deanery came together at St Stephen’s Catholic Church in Welling, to celebrate the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, observed as International Day of Prayer and Awareness against Human Trafficking.

The event started with Mass. Bishop Patrick Lynch, Chief Celebrant, welcomed the congregation and gave a brief history of St Josephine Bakhita’s spiritual journey and transformation from being a victim of slavery as a young girl who was re-sold at least five times to becoming a nun and now a saint. Bishop Lynch said, “The power of forgiveness helped heal the hurt, and pain St Josephine Bakhita experienced, but she held no grudges and no bitterness in her heart for her traffickers.

The observance of the feast of St Josephine Bakhita Bishop Lynch said, “started in 2013 by the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales and is now celebrated worldwide by the Catholic Church. St Josephine Bakhita is recognised as the patron saint of victims of trafficking and modern-day slavery and those who work to combat it”.

Mass was followed by a workshop on human trafficking led by Fr Mark Odion, Africa Project Coordinator for the Santa Marts Group. In his presentation, Fr Mark gave an overview of nature and scale of human trafficking and the Catholic Church’s response to this heinous crime. He highlighted the global, national and local initiatives of the bishops of England and Wales to raise awareness of trafficking in dioceses and support victims and survivors.

Fr Mark said “in our daily activities we may encounter victims of human trafficking unwittingly. They could be in the nail bars we go to in preparedness for family events and celebrations or the car wash we frequent”. He encouraged participants at the event to engage with the local initiatives, including training and awareness days designed to inform and educate parish communities across diocese on human trafficking that is a growing threat to society. Participants were invited to reflect on their own ways of using services where exploitation of potential victims of human trafficking could be happening.
The workshop ended with a question and answer session.