November 28 is the feast day of Our Lady of Kibeho, and is the only Marian apparition site approved by the Catholic Church on the African continent.
Kibeho is a village located in the southern part of Rwanda, in the administrative district of Nyaruguru. It is 36 km from the Bishop of Gikongoro’s residence and 30 km from the Bishop of Butare’s residence. Kibeho is also the name given to one of the parishes of the diocese of Gikongoro, founded in 1934 and dedicated to Mary, Mother of God.
Today, Kibeho is best known as a place of apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary and of pilgrimages to the shrine. The first apparition of Mary was on November 28, 1981, when 16 year old Alphonsine Mumureke, a student of the Kibeho High School, saw a lady of incomparable beauty who presented herself under the name of “Nyina Wa Jambo,” which means “Mother of the Word.” Alphonsine immediately recognised her as the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of Our Saviour Jesus who warned her of the unimaginable: Rwanda becoming hell on Earth if people didn’t come back to God. The apparitions of the Blessed Virgin occurred subsequently and several times in succession, at long or short intervals. The Virgin asked everybody to convert, to keep the faith and to pray without ceasing.
Alphonsine was born on March 21, 1965, in Cyizihira, in the parish of Zaza, Diocese of Kibungo. Her parents were Thaddée Gakwaya and Mary Immaculate Mukagasana. She was baptised when she was 12 years old, on July 27 1977. At the time of the apparitions, she had just been admitted to the Kibeho High School, founded in 1967 by parish priest, Father Grégoire Kamugisha in October, 1981. When Alphonsine was admitted in 1981, it was called Kibeho High school; and later, since 1984, “Ecole des Lettres de Kibeho” (Kibeho School of the Letters), and nowadays, since 1998, “Groupe Scolaire Mère du Verbe” (Mother of the Word High school).
At first Alphonsine was viewed as mad or deranged, a girl possessed by the devil; or, according to some, as a mediocre student wanting to play a prank to make her more accepted in the school conducted by the Congregation of Benebikira Sisters (i.e., Daughters of the Virgin Mary).
Many people demanded signs of credibility. At the time of the ecstasies, students and teachers were allowed to apply tests on the body of Alphonsine in order to check and to verify her sincerity. It was even suggested that if it was really the Blessed Virgin Mary who had visited the school, they would take it seriously, if she at least appeared to other students instead of just that poor Alphonsine from Gisaka, a region which had a reputation for the practice of magic. Alphonsine asked the Virgin to respond to the challenge by appearing to others and exhorted her schoolmates also to ask her for themselves to receive necessary enlightenment.
A short time later, two new alleged visionaries appeared in the high school, one after the other, and in close proximity to Alphonsine: notably Nathalie Mukamazimpaka on January 12, 1982, and Marie Claire Mukangango on March 2, 1982.
Nathalie Mukamazimpaka was born in 1964 in Munini in the present district of Nyaruguru, parish of Muganza, Diocese of Gikongoro. Her father was Laurent Ngango and her mother, Gaudence Mukabaziga. She was baptised on February 2, 1968, when she was 4 years old. During the time of the apparitions, she was also a student in 4th grade at the Kibeho High school. As a seer of the Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Nathalie is especially known for the message of redemptive suffering and unceasing prayer for a world that is in a very bad way with many being at risk of losing their souls.
“The world is in a terrible state”, Our Lady told Nathalie, on August 15, 1982, “if you do nothing to repent and renounce your sins, woe to you!” And: “The world is in rebellion against God, too many sins are committed, there is neither love nor peace…. If you do not repent and convert your hearts, you will all fall into an abyss. I want to free you from the abyss so that you do not fall, but you refuse”. Again: “The time will come when you will want to pray, repent and obey, but it will be too late, unless you begin to do it now, repenting and doing all that I expect from you”.
That is not all. In Kibeho Our Lady warns against another very serious danger: the loss of faith and apostasy, not only in the world, but also within the Church itself. She invites us to pray a great deal for priests, for bishops, for cardinals, and for the whole Church, so that they may always proclaim the true Gospel of God, against the destructive work of Satan who is intent on perverting it.
Since March 2, 1982, Marie Claire Mukangango, schoolmate of Nathalie, declared herself as a seer of the Virgin Mary. Her case was like a bomb exploding inside the high school community, because until then Marie Claire was characterised by her fierce opposition to the “so-called” apparitions claimed by Alphonsine.
Marie Claire was born in 1961 in Rusekera, in the present district of Nyamagabe, parish of Mushubi, diocese of Gikongoro. Her father was Baseka and her mother Véronique Nyiratuza. She was baptised when she was 5 years old, on August 12, 1966. During the apparitions, she too studied at the Kibeho High school in the 4th class. As a visionary, she is especially known for the message of the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary, associated with an urgent call to repentance: “Repent, repent, repent!” the Virgin said to the world through the lips by Marie Claire.
The increased number of the seers complicated the “disconcerting” situation created by Alphonsine, but for others, the two new cases, especially the one of Marie Claire, were interpreted as a good sign coming from heaven to show that the prayer of Alphonsine had been accepted and to sustain the faith of all those that were still hesitating to take her apparitions seriously. Different witnesses interrogated in the Kibeho High School in 1982, declared that they began to believe in the apparitions after the extraordinary experience of Marie Claire. In short, public opinion tried to find a natural explanation for the phenomenon, but without success, considering the great number of astonishing facts confirmed as the days passed that defied simple human understanding. In spite of the critics and objections of all sorts against the apparitions, a movement of belief then quickly began to develop inside and outside of Kibeho. Before the Christmas holidays of 1981, a group of “converted” students and teachers appeared at a regular prayer meeting with Alphonsine, where they recited the rosary accompanied by hymns in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
After May 1982 the apparitions took on a new dimension and the news began to spread like a bushfire outside the Kibeho High school and the surrounding hills to many even more remote locations until they were attracting crowds estimated at more than 10,000 people of all ages and all social classes.
The apparitions They were also described as using an abundance of words, long ecstasies, with songs, prayers of intercession, blessings (especially by means of water), repeated falls during the same apparition on certain days (from August 15, 1982 until the end of Lent in 1983), and other mortifications. Lent of 1983 was in particular characterised by extraordinary fasting that was closely monitored by a team of physicians from the National University of Rwanda.
Perhaps the most impressive prophecy given by Our Lady during the apparitions is the vision that she showed in sequence to the girls on 15 August 1982. Rivers of blood, fire burning, men killing each other and a huge pit that many people were about to fall in… the girls saw all this while Nyina wa Jambo appeared to them deeply sorrowful and weeping.
“At that time, no one could imagine the meaning of those images. Only later would it be discovered that Our Lady had predicted exactly what would happen twelve years later, with the genocide of the Rwandan people”, Father Jean Claude Mbonimpa – a priest from Musanze, a village in northern Rwanda – explained. These prophecies, which came true in time, were a ‘litmus test’ on the truthfulness of the apparitions of Kibeho, which on June 29, 2001 were officially approved by the Church through the Bishop of Gikongoro, Augustin Misago.
Alphonsine Mumureke is said to have taken a “mystical journey” on March 20, 1982 of several hours’ duration with the Virgin to another “world” throughout “places” that she describes in symbolic language that makes one think of realities such as Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven, but with a vocabulary rather different from the one of the Catechism. Nathalie Mukamazimpaka had a similar experience on October 30, 1982, which was closely observed by a team from the Bishop’s theological commission.
The apparitions of Kibeho officially ended on November 28, 1989, a date on which Alphonsine, the first seer, witnessed her final public apparition of the Virgin Mary. She specified that she would not have any more apparitions publicly. This meaningful fact, which was introduced 8 years after the Virgin’s first apparition at Kibeho, is recognised as an important historical reference for anybody investigating the apparitions and for the ecclesiastical authorities.
The story of the visitations of Our Lady to the children of Kibeho is most beautifully illuminated by Immaculée Ilibagiza, the best-selling author of several books on the subject which include, Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa, If Only We Had Listened, and Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust. It is the personal mission of Immaculée, who miraculously survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide herself, to share Our Lady of Kibeho with the world, The narratives of the visionaries are awe-inspiring. And so is Immaculée’s own story.
HERE is a short video of Immaculée’s horrific ordeal during the Tutsi genocide in 1994 committed by the Hutus, their own countrymen, who just days before the outbreak of the genocide had been their friends and neighbours! Her testimony is a beautiful Christian witness to faith, courage and forgiveness.
Our Lady’s messages reminded us to pray the Rosary daily. Furthermore, she requested that the visionaries reintroduce the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Virgin Mary to the world. She promised that the recitation of this rosary in conjunction with (not in place of) the traditional Rosary would result in forgiveness of our sins as well as the understanding of why we commit such sins, so we can avoid the snares of the devil and fill our hearts with the love of God.
Prayer to Our Lady of Kibeho
Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Word, Mother of all those who believe in Him and who welcome Him into their lives, we are here before you to contemplate you. We believe that you are amongst us, like a mother in the midst of her children, even though we do not see you with our bodily eyes.
We bless you, the sure way that leads us to Jesus the Savior, for all the favours which you endlessly pour out upon us, especially that, in your meekness, you were gracious enough to appear miraculously in Kibeho, just when our world needed it most.
Grant us always the light and strength necessary to accept, will all seriousness, your call to us to be converted, to repent, and to live according to your Son’s Gospel. Teach us how to pray with sincerity, and to love one another as He loved us, so that, just as you have requested, we may always be beautiful flowers diffusing their pleasant fragrance everywhere and upon everyone.
Holy Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, teach us to understand the value of the cross in our lives, so that whatever is still lacking to the sufferings of Christ we may fill up in our own bodies for His mystical Body, which is the Church.
And, when our pilgrimage on this earth comes to an end, may we live eternally with you in the kingdom of Heaven. Amen.