Since 2003, St Bakhita Centre has been the backbone of the Sudanese Australian Catholic Community providing adult education, pastoral care and faith development to support former refugees in resettlement.
A major focus of the centre is the education of Sudanese women who have often not been to school. This is done by dedicated volunteers who teach English, computer, sewing and other classes and mind children so that their mothers can learn.
Over the past decade, St Bakhita’s has made a huge difference to the lives of dozens of Sudanese families in Sydney but the work is ongoing. Every week, the centre strives to improve the education and employment outcomes of this wonderful group of people.
Anna Dimo, Pastoral Care Coordinator
A former school principal, Anna Dimo has been Pastoral Care Coordinator at St Bakhita Centre since 2009. In this role, Anna draws on a lifetime of service to be a powerful advocate for the welfare, faith and education of the Sudanese community in Australia.
Anna's responsibilities are varied and include managing the centre and assisting those in need. She acts as a meditator and translator and is an important link with the schools. She coordinates prayer meetings, community gatherings and funerals. She refers people to agencies such as Catholic Care, Anglicare, Migrant Centres and St Vincent de Paul.
Her dedication to the community has been recognised by a number of awards including the 2015 Local Woman of the Year (Strathfield). Anna is part of the Ethnic Communities Council Good Neighbour Project through which former refugees mentor new arrivals.
Who was St Josephine Bakhita?
Patron Saint of South Sudan and of Human Trafficking
Josephine Bakhita was born in 1869 to a prosperous family in the western Sudanese region of Darfur. At the age of about nine, she was kidnapped, sold into slavery and suffered great brutality.
In 1883, the Italian Consul bought Bakhita and treated her kindly. She was taken with his family to Italy where she cared for children of local families. She and one of the children were left with the Canossian Sisters in Venice when the family moved overseas in 1888.
Bakhita was very happy in the convent and refused to leave when the family returned. The Mother Superior petitioned the authorities and an Italian court ruled that, as Italy had outlawed slavery before Bakhita’s birth, she had in fact been a free woman since arriving in the country.
In 1890, Bakhita became a Canossian sister and ministered as a cook, sacristan and doorkeeper in a convent in Vicenza. She was loved by the local community for her gentleness, calming voice and ever-present smile.
After Bakhita died in 1947, thousands visited her tomb and devotion to her grew rapidly. Her legacy 'that transformation is possible through suffering' is not only a message of hope for our world but a reminder to fight against injustice wherever we see it.