St Josephine Bakhita– 8th February. Josephine was born in a small village in the western Sudanese region of Durfur. Her father was a land owner and the family were well respected. When she was only about 7 years old she was abducted by Arab slave traders, as her sister had been 2 years earlier. Poor Josephine was sold to various different owners who treated her terribly subjecting her to inhumane tortures. In 1883 after years of suffering at the hands of cruel men her luck changed and she was sold to a weathly Italian Vice Counsellor who eventually entrusted her to the Michieli family who treated her with kindness and respect. The family moved to Italy where she became nanny to their little girl Mimmina. Mrs Michieli had to return to the Sudan so she handed her daughter and Bakhita in to the care of Canossian nuns in a convent in Venice. They remained there 3 years before her return .It was here Josephine met her one true Master,Jesus who changed her life and gave meaning and relief to her fomer agony. When Mrs Michieli returned to the convent to collect her daughter, Josephine stayed on at the convent, joined the novitiate and dedicated her life to God helping to save souls. In 1902 she was assigned to the Canossian convent at schio where she spent the rest of her life. Bakhita was canonised in 2000.
Blessed Leopold of Alpandeire– 9th February. Born on 24th June in 1866, Leopold was baptized Francisco Thomas Marquez Sanchez. The son of hardworking peasants he spent his earlier life living at home toiling the land. He came from a family of devout Catholics, attended Mass and adored the Blessed Sacrament daily. After hearing 2 Capuchin friars preach in Rhonda in 1894 he decided to join the order and in 1889 became a postulant in Seville. In 1900 he entered the novitiate and received the name of Brother Leopold. After successive assignments in Seville, Antequera and Granada, in 1914 he was permanently moved to Granada where he assumed the role of gardener, sacristan and questor. Leopold would walk the dusty streets and paths distributing alms of love and dispensing Gods goodness to everyone. He was known for his humility and kindness and as a term of endearment he was given the name “humble beggar of the three hail Marys”, many sought his advice and intercession. He died on the 9th of February aged 92 in 1956 and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. His major shrine is situated in the Friary church in Granada where he is buried.
Our Lady of Lourdes– 11th February. “Our Lady of Lourdes”, is the title given to the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1858 a beautiful lady dressed in white with a blue sash and a golden rosary draped over her arm appeared in a series of visions to the young peasant girl Bernadette Soubrious in the hollow of a rock at Massabielle in France. At first many doubted the authenticity of her visions until she related that the lady had spoken these words to her “I am the Immaculate conception.” Immediately the local priests recognised the significance of these words, it was without doubt the Mother of God. The Virgin Mary instructed Bernadette to tell the priest to build a chapel dedicated to her, first of all a basilica was built on the rock, then “The Church of the Rosary” was built at the base and consecrated in 1901. In one of the visions Our Lady told Bernadette to drink from the fountain in the cave, Bernadette touched the ground and a spring gushed forth. In 1862 church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the visions and authorized the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes for the diocese, in 1907 it was celebrated world wide. Lourdes is one of the most visited Christian pilgrimage sites in the world people come to drink from the spring to strengthen their faith and for healing, countless miracles have been known to take place. The healing at Lourdes have been recognised as a continuation of Jesus healing miracles through the intercession of His Holy Mother.