Fort Wayne’s University of Saint Francis to offer prayer, education to end human trafficking

Bill Duffy, the Josephine's Hope project director at University of Saint Francis, was inspired by the story of St. Josephine Bakhita, background, to work to end human trafficking. Duffy wrote a prayer book, "Awaited by This Love," that will be used Jan. 30-Feb. 7 at USF as part of activities to pray for an end to human trafficking and to educate people about how to stop it. (By Kevin Kilbane of

As with most people, when Bill Duffy thinks about the Super Bowl, he thinks about the game and the food. But in recent years, Duffy also thinks a lot about a seamier side of the event – the knowledge it is a magnet for sex trafficking.

That’s why he helped launch the Josephine’s Hope project at University of Saint Francis to raise community awareness about human trafficking.

The program, which will take place Jan. 30-Feb. 7 this year, will include nine days of prayer, as well as informational events, to create greater awareness of the problem and to get people involved in stopping human trafficking. The Super Bowl is Feb. 4.

“My tendency was to think about it as happening in some faraway place,” said Duffy, a counselor and instructor with USF’s TRiO office and the Josephine’s Hope project director.

But human trafficking happens right here in Fort Wayne, said Duffy, whose TRiO work involves assisting young people who come from low-income families, who are the first generation of their family to attend college or who have a disability.

Duffy said he first became more interested in preventing human trafficking after reading an encyclical, or statement, written by Pope Benedict XVI in 2007. The encyclical, “Spe Salvi,” or “Saved by Hope,” included the story of St. Josephine Bakhita, a native of Sudan who was held as a slave for 12 years as a girl and young woman.

“She endured terrible torture and was lucky to survive,” said Duffy, who was inspired to do his own research on her life.

After finding a way to freedom, she joined the Canossian Daughters of Charity religious order in Italy. She remained a member of the order for the rest of her life.

Ironically, the feast day on which she is remembered in the Catholic Church is Feb. 8, which is always around the time of the Super Bowl, said Duffy, a longtime area high school teacher and coach who joined USF’s staff in 2016.

Last year, when USF’s mission values integration committee asked for ideas on how to put the university’s Franciscan values into action, he suggested focusing on human trafficking.

USF dealt with the issue on a small scale last year, but the university will address it in a much bigger way this year, Duffy said.

One of the focuses this year will be use of the prayer book “Awaited by This Love,” which Duffy wrote. The book is built around the Catholic prayer tradition of the novena — nine days of daily prayer typically asking a saint — in this case, St. Josephine Bakhita — to intercede with God to grant special graces or special favors or to hear special petitions.

Each day begins with a reading based on St. Josephine Bakhita’s life, Duffy said. Then people read a reflection connecting the story about St. Josephine to life today. Each day’s readings end with an excerpt from the Bible’s Book of Psalms intended to inspire prayer.

The prayer book contains simple drawings and illustrations by Erica Garcia, a senior art education major at USF.

Duffy said poverty seems to be the biggest factor in a person becoming a victim of human trafficking. The internet and social media also make it easier than ever for human traffickers to prey on young people, he added.

He voiced optimism the Josephine’s Hope project can make a difference through prayer and by educating people on what to do if they suspect someone is caught in human trafficking.

“We always begin with prayer,” he said. “Our faith also causes us to look for ways to get involved, to look for ways to act.”

If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, the best thing you can do is call 911, he said.


WHAT: The University of Saint Francis will offer the nine-day Josephine’s Hope project to raise awareness about and to stop human trafficking. The events are open to the public.

WHEN: Jan. 30-Feb. 7

WHERE: University of Saint Francis, 2701 Spring St., and at its downtown campus, 826 Ewing St.


DAILY JAN. 30-FEB. 7: People are invited to use the prayer book “Awaited by This Love” for a nine-day novena of prayer. The book will be printed in a limited supply and hard copies will be available for use in the USF chapel.

JAN. 30: The movie “I am Jane Doe” will be shown at 6 p.m. in the Doermer Family Center for Health Sciences on the USF main campus, 2701 Spring St. A discussion will be led by two USF alumni who have worked to prevent or who have studied human trafficking – Jordan Crouch, a co-facilitator and co-founder of the Anti-Trafficking Network of Northeast Indiana and family support manager at Amani Family Services, and Kaitlyn Pozorski, who received academic honor through Indiana University School of Social Work to study human trafficking in India.

FEB. 1: Alyssa Ivanson, investigative reporter for local TV station WANE, Channel 15.1, will speak on “Hidden Predators: The State of Sex Trafficking in Fort Wayne” at 7 p.m. in the Historic Woman’s Club at USF’s downtown campus, 826 Ewing St. Ivanson reported on human trafficking in Fort Wayne in a series of stories broadcast last year.

FEB. 6: A discussion of “I am Jane Doe” and Alyssa Ivanson’s presentation will take place at 6 p.m. in the Cougar Den, which is in the middle of the Spring Street campus behind Trinity Hall.


Bill Duffy of the University of Saint Francis included the following statistics in his prayer book, “Awaited by This Love,” which will be used during the Josephine Hope Project Jan. 30-Feb. 7 by USF.

The statistics come from the Polaris Project, an organization working to eliminate modern slavery:

• There are 20.9 million victims of human trafficking worldwide.

• Human trafficking is a $150 billion-per-year industry.

• 68 percent of human trafficking victims are trapped in forced-labor situations.

• 26 percent of victims are children.

• 55 percent of victims are women and girls.


Here are the prayer readings for one day in “Awaited by This Love,” the prayer book people will use during the Josephine’s Hope project at USF. It includes a story from the life of St. Josephine Bakhita, a reflection on a modern-day event and a Psalm verse to inspire personal prayer:

Day 3

From Bakhita’s life:

“How we cried. How we suffered.”

Bakhita told the story of her captivity. Her life was a series of cruel treatments – long exhaustive marches, bound in ropes and chains, harsh treatment and minimal food. She was ultimately sold at a slave market and was traveling with a caravan to another location when she and a companion actually escaped and ran away from their owners in search of their parents. She told of going days without food, hiding in trees, and running, hoping they were going in the right direction to get back home to their families.

At one point they found themselves near a small house which they were seeing and approaching with great care. Suddenly, a man appeared and asked them where they were going. They told him they were going to their parents. He asked where their parents were. The girls responded while pointing generally, “Over there.” At this point, the man invited them into his home and gave them food. He told them that after they rested, he would take them to their parents. He led them to his barn and tied them up. It was then they realized they were slaves again. A few days later, the man sold the two girls to a passing slave trader.


February 7, 2017:

On a short flight from Seattle to San Francisco, Alaska Airlines flight attendant Sheila Fedrick noticed something that did not look right. A well-dressed older man was sitting next to a disheveled-looking teen-age girl. When Fedrick tried to talk to the girl, the man would answer for her, not permitting the girl to talk.

Suspecting that something was wrong, Fedrick was able to tell the girl (whispering under her breath) to go to the bathroom, where she found a note left by Fedrick on the mirror: “Are you okay?” The girl used a pen that Fedrick had left for her and wrote on the back of the note that she needed help.

Sheila Fedrick notified the pilot who radioed ahead to the tower in San Francisco. When the plane landed, the police were waiting at the gate to arrest the trafficker and set the girl free.

When interviewed later, Fedrick said that she had fallen back on her training, which basically emphasized the need to be aware: to keep one’s eyes open for anything that did not look right.

We, too, can do what Sheila Fedrick did.

Prayer starter:

Psalm 71: 1-2: “In you, Lord, I take refuge, let me never be put to shame. In your justice rescue and deliver me; listen to me and save me!”