St Josephine Bakhita
Liverpool Cathedral announced who their new Dean will be last Wednesday – Canon Doctor Susan Jones. Susan had been Dean of Bangor Cathedral from 2011 and then moved to Derby Diocese three years ago as Canon for Mission and was for a brief time acting Dean of Derby during an interregnum at Derby Cathedral. She will be the eighth and first female Dean at Liverpool Cathedral marking a new chapter in its life. It will be some months before she is installed and takes up her post but we assure the new Dean and the Cathedral of our prayer and support at this time.
On Thursday we keep the memorial of St Josephine Bakhita and I have to confess I only really read up on her life story in recent years wondering why she was linked as a patron saint of slaves and particularly trafficked women. Born in Sudan in 1869 she was abducted from her family in Sudan at an early age she was sold into slavery and brutally treated by some of the families and in situations that she was placed as a slave and servant. She eventually ended up as a servant to an Italian family and went to Italy with them for a few years whilst they were preparing to resettle in a new home back in Sudan. For a short while the servants of the family were housed in a convent where Josephine was instructed in the faith and when she was ordered to return with the family to Sudan as a slave she refused to go and the sisters took the case to the Italian courts who declared her free to stay. For the rest of her life she took religious vows and lived as a Canossian sister in Northern Italy, where she was known for her holiness and she was loved by the local people. She died in 1947 and was declared a saint in 2000. In recent years we have been made aware that the problems of human trafficking and enslavement are more prevalent than ever and evident even in our own society.
The Archdiocese has recently allowed the Medaille trust to use one of our properties in Widnes to rehouse trafficked women and nationally Cardinal Vincent Nicholls has been instrumental in working with the police and international agencies to raise awareness and find ways of combating this. A recently canonised saint with a relevance for our times.
Next Sunday we celebrate our Annual Civic Mass at 11.00am, when we will welcome many of the leaders within civic and public life not just from Liverpool but also the boroughs across the whole of the Archdiocese. It is an opportunity for us to give thanks and to pray for our local communities and all those who work for the good of others and of our society.
Canon Anthony O’Brien