I love working on customer requests when it comes to designing the Sew-a-Saint series. Back in mid-April, I received the following email:
Do you have or plan to make any African or African-American Saints? It is because of the intercession of St. Mother Josephine Bakita that I am a deacon. There are so many others, too…St. Martin de Porres, St. Charles Lwanga and his Companions, St. Monica, St. Augustine,St. Perpetua, St. Felicity, St. Benedict the Moor. St. Moses the Black and the beats goes.
Sincerely, Deacon Pickett.
St. Josephine Bakhita is a modern day saint, and a woman with an amazing history to share. She was born in Sudan in 1869, but her life took a horrific turn at the age 7 when she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. She was given the name Bakhita, which means fortunate (more on that in a moment), brutally beaten, and resold multiple times…ultimately in 1883 to Callisto Legnani, the Italian consul in Khartoum, Sudan. Two years later, the consul brought Josephine to Italy and gave her to his friend Augusto Michieli. Bakhita became babysitter to Mimmina Michieli, whom she accompanied to Venice’s Institute of the Catechumens which was run by the Canossian Sisters. Josephine would listen in on the lessons as Mimmina was being instructed, and felt her own faith not just begin but exponentially grow. Josephine felt drawn to the Catholic Church, chose to be baptized and confirmed in 1890, and took the name Josephine. “Seeing the sun, the moon and the stars, I said to myself: Who could be the Master of these beautiful things? And I felt a great desire to see him, to know Him and to pay Him homage…”
Josephine expressed a strong desire to remain in Italy. When the Michielis family returned from Africa, and tried to bring both Mimmina and Josephine back with them, St. Josephine firmly refused to go. The Canossian Sisters (along with the patriarch of Venice) took up her case, and – during the ensuing court case – the judge concluded that since slavery was illegal in Italy, she had actually been free since 1885.
Josephine entered the Institute of St. Magdalene of Canossa in 1893, and made her profession three years later. A few years later, she was went to the city of Schio, where she assisted in her religious community through cooking, sewing (sewing!!), and other work as needed. “Be good, love the Lord, pray for those who do not know Him. What a great grace it is to know God!”
I’ve spent these past few months thick in the mask making business, but have been slowly working on a design for St. Josephine. I’ve slowly been changing the design of the Sew-a-Saint dolls, making them a bit more realistic in face as opposed to novelty – and am so happy with the way this doll turned out!
In creating this Sew-a-Saint of St. Mother Josephine Bakhita, I focused on several iconic images of her for both inspiration and historical accuracy. Her face, long and narrow, is captured with a hint of the calm smile she carried with her. On her head is her iconic wrap, immediately identifying this amazing woman. In great detail hangs, around her neck, a gold necklace of Our Lady of Sorrows (the doll you purchase has OLS perfectly drawn in detail).
In researching this amazing woman, half the images created of her show her with chains on her arms, reflective of both the time she spent in slavery as well as some of the final words she uttered during her last days: “Please, loosen the chains… they are heavy!”. I chose to not put the chains on her, and instead focused on the time from her baptism. However, I do think it would be remiss to not include something sharing her time as an enslaved woman; the background of the print has a metal bar, almost caged feel, to it, which reminds us of the brutality of her early years.
These soft plush dolls are one of our favorite items, and they’re totally beginner friendly! They can be sewn by hand or with a machine (though I recommend a machine). Each saint is hand drawn and comes printed on a fat-quarter of fabric ready to sew. Instructions are printed on the fabric, ensuring you’ll know how to make him as soon as he arrives in your mailbox. Dolls measure approximately 15″ when complete.
Please note that the images displayed on your screen are slightly blurred to protect copyrights. The images on the printed fabric are crisp and clear.