Home' The Southern Cross : December 2016 Contents Page 16 December 2016
When the feast of St Josephine
Bakhita is celebrated in Adelaide
on February 8, there will be much
rejoicing amongst the African
Catholic community but also a
serious side to the occasion.
For the first time, the Australian
Catholic Religious Against
Trafficking in Humans (ACRATH)
is focusing on the feast of
Canossian Sister Josephine
Bakhita (right) to highlight the
tragedy of human trafficking
which is still prevalent throughout the world
St Bakhita was born in southern Sudan in 1869.
As a young girl, she was kidnapped and sold into
slavery. She was treated brutally by her captors
who beat her until she bled and tortured her by
tattooing her stomach and arms.
After being sold to an Italian consular official in
Khartoum, she was taken to Italy where a rich
businessman employed her as a nursemaid to his
She was introduced to Christianity and eventually
placed in the care of the Canossian Sisters in
Venice where she began religious instruction. She
resisted attempts by the businessman to take her
back to Sudan, even though it meant she may
have been reunited with her family. She eventually
entered the novitiate and made her vows on
December 8 1896 in Verona. She spent nearly
45 years in the Canossian house in the town of
Schio, where she became affectionately known
by the locals as Madre Madetta (Black Mother).
One person who is pleased that St Bakhita is
to be a protector for ACRATH and all those
struggling to escape slavery and exploitation is
Sister Irene Motta from Salisbury parish.
Like St Bakhita, Sr Irene, 75, belongs to the
Canossian order and has devoted her life to
Sr Irene says St Bakhita is an inspiration for
anyone who has experienced the tyranny of
“St Bakhita can bring hope to those who are
going through this kind of slavery, whether it’s
physical, moral or psychological.
“We (the Sisters) are very happy to have ACRATH
involved in her feast day celebration and in
making St Bakhita better known.
“After all she went through, she
never resented anyone. She
came to meet God, she knew that
there was someone so great who
had created the world but didn’t
realise it was God. When she did,
she wanted to belong to God.”
Sr Irene says Josephine entered
the Order at a time when it was
very unusual to have a “black
“She was the first African in the
congregation – children were
afraid of her at first, they would
touch her and say she was
‘coloured with chocolate’,” says Sr Irene, who
joined the Order in 1960. St Bakhita, who died
in 1947, was not well known then, especially in
Milan where Irene began her Religious vocation.
Then a biography was published and Sr Irene and
her companions started hearing about the “Black
Sister”. They were amazed she could survive all
that torture and maltreatment, yet she said she
would “kiss the place where the slaves took her
because through them she became a child of
Sr Irene studied in Verona, England and Rome
before being sent to Australia in 1970. Her
first mission was in Darwin where the Sisters
established Bakhita Village, on the outskirts of the
Having studied psychological education in Rome,
she used this knowledge to develop a non-
institutional approach to caring for children, with
five houses comprising 10 children each creating
a ‘family’ environment for Indigenous children.
The village was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy – the
children were spread around the parish – and
after being summoned to Sydney to avoid the
cyclone, Sr Irene never returned.
Like St Bakhita she has spent much of her life
away from her family and friends, only returning
to Italy on a regular basis in recent years.
She has worked in health and aged care in
Sydney, Brisbane, Townsville and Adelaide. She
is a familiar face in the Salisbury parish through
her work with Basic Ecclesial Centres, family faith
formation and pastoral visitation at Lyell McEwen
Sr Irene and her fellow Canossians always attend
the feast day Mass for St Bakhita but she is quick
to acknowledge that the Sudanese community
think of the saint as “our Sister”.
By Jenny Brinkworth
Saint for slaves continues to inspire
RAISING AWARENESS: Sr Irene Motta with resources on St Josephine
A partnership announced with Catholic Mission
in October will enable Palms Australia to
continue to provide skilled volunteers to work
with Catholic communities overseas.
Under the new arrangement, Catholic Mission
will contribute $100,000 over 12 months, to
which Palms will allocate around $140,000 of
other donor contributions.
Roger O’Halloran, executive director of Palms
Australia, said the agreement would allow
the ongoing work of the Catholic Church in
international aid and development volunteering,
which otherwise might have ended with the
“decline of available religious personnel”.
“The partnership will enable requests to be met
from Timor Leste and the Pacific for up to 12
communities seeking volunteer assistance to
help develop their infrastructure and personnel,”
“The agreement will allow us to back the
teachers, tradespeople, administration and
accounting professionals who will make
themselves available for placements after being
prepared and commissioned at the Palms
orientation course in January 2017.”
Palms Australia was started in 1956 by Catholic
organisation the Paulian Association.
Joining the Palms program next year is Adelaide
teacher Pamela D’Silva.
A member of St Laurence's Church at North
Adelaide, Pamela will spend the next two years
working in the Maliana Catholic Diocese in Timor
In her role at TAFE SA, Pamela teaches the
Skills for Education and Employment program,
providing basic literacy skills through to
employment-oriented training for adult refugees
and migrants. She also works at Pauline Books
and Media two days a week.
“Teaching in the SEE program at TAFE has
actually provided me with invaluable lessons
– through my students and all that they have
experienced before coming to Australia. I have
had students from over 14 different countries and
all of them have had such varied life lessons to
Her mission work will see her training teachers in
English learning and teaching.
If you are interested in volunteering with
Palms Australia, enquire now on 02 9560 5333
Palms future assured
Links Archive November 2016 February 2017 Navigation Previous Page Next Page