Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DCR Masthead

Nov. 28 marks 30th anniversary of Marian apparitions in Rwanda
By Nissa LaPoint
Photo by James Baca/DCR: Rwanda genocide survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza addresses Seeds of Hope Charitable Trust’s Nov. 18 gala at the Grand Hyatt Denver Hotel.
Photo by James Baca/DCR
Rwanda genocide survivor Immaculée Ilibagiza addresses Seeds of Hope Charitable Trust’s Nov. 18, 2011 gala at the Grand Hyatt Denver Hotel.
The dramatic and frequent Marian apparitions seen by several Rwandan school children in the 1980s will reach its 30-year anniversary next week.
Thousands of faithful are anticipated to gather in Kibeho, Rwanda, Nov. 28 for Mass and veneration on the feast day of Our Lady of Kibeho, who appeared to teenagers with messages of love, repentance and warnings about the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
The first and only Vatican-approved Marian apparitions in Africa took place in Kibeho and are of particular significance to Immaculée Ilibagiza, who grew up in the country during the apparitions and developed a devotion to the Virgin Mary.
“I’m going there on the feast day, because I want to take pictures and share them with my friends and everyone,” Ilibagiza said. “I want people to know that she loves us.”
She shared the message of Our Lady of Kibeho at the annual Evening of Hope gala Nov. 18 hosted by Seeds of Hope Charitable Trust, an organization that helps make Catholic education possible for economically-disadvantaged children.
Ilibagiza also told the story of her survival from the Rwandan genocide, which she credits to praying the rosary, and her journey of faith and forgiveness. She’s shared this story to audiences worldwide and wrote three books including the New York Times best-seller “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust.”
As part of her mission to spread knowledge about Our Lady of Kibeho, Ilibagiza also wrote “Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa.”
While at first skeptical about the visions she heard about as a child in Rwanda, she came to believe after witnessing a miracle and watching some apparitions unfold through visionaries at Kibeho, she said.
In her book, Ilibagiza describes the events as they unfolded and the message the Virgin Mary told 16-year-old Alphonsine Mumureke in the tiny village of Zaza in 1981.
“Mary … stated that she wanted to be loved and trusted by people everywhere so that she could lead lost souls to salvation through Jesus,” Ilibagiza wrote in the book about the first visions.
Less than a year later, the Virgin Mary appeared to 17-year-old Anathalie Mukamazimpaka and said: “My child, you must pray, for the world is in a horrible way; people have turned from God and the love of my son, Jesus. ... So many souls are running to ruin that I need your help to turn them back to my son.”
In 1982, the Virgin Mary then appeared to Marie Claire Mukangango, who had previously tormented the two other teenagers whom the Virgin Mary visited.
Six others claimed to see apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho, but only the first three testimonials given about the apparitions were approved by Bishop Augustin Misago of Gikongoro, Rwanda.
In his declaration released by the Vatican in July 2001, Bishop Misago wrote: “Yes, the Virgin Mary appeared at Kibeho on 28 November 1981 and in the months that followed. There are more reasons to believe in the apparitions than to deny them. Only the three initial testimonies merit being considered authentic. ... The Virgin appeared to them with the name ‘Nyina wa Jambo,’ that is ‘Mother of the Word,’ which is synonymous to ‘Umubyeyl W’iamna’ that is, ‘Mother of God,’ as she herself explained.”
It was six months later that 50,000 people gathered to celebrate Mass in Kibeho to mark the day when the “Mother of the Word” first appeared to Mumureke.
“Our Lady of Kibeho is a beacon of hope,” Bishop Misago said during the Mass, “a light for all of Africa and the world.”
A shrine sits at the spot where the visionaries received apparitions and the Church of the Seven Sorrows was built nearby in honor of the special rosary the Virgin Mary taught Mukangango.
“I hope and pray that people will know that they’re loved,” Ilibagiza said about her desire of what people will learn from reading about Our Lady of Kibeho. “The Virgin Mary wants to show you mercy and love regardless (of your sins). She will guide you with all her love.”