By Kateri Williams
Most Catholics are familiar with the Marian apparition sites in France, Portugal and Mexico. Yet, many are unaware of the Marian apparitions that took place in Kibeho, Rwanda between 1981 and 1989 to three children. Recognized by the Vatican in 2001, Our Lady of Kibeho is the only Marian apparition site approved by the Catholic Church on the Africa continent.
November 28 is the feast day of Our Lady of Kibeho, and as we commemorate the 30th anniversary of National Black Catholic History Month this November, it is a most opportune time to share the Blessed Mother’s message to the world at a time when it needs it most.
At the time of her appearance, Kibeho was a peaceful town. The visitations took place 13 years before the brutal genocide of over one million people in Rwanda. The messages from Our Lady to the three young visionaries included a foreshadowing of the impending tragedy. However, her messages were not only for the people of Kibeho. Our Lady stated, “If I am coming here it does not mean that my message is only for Rwanda, nor just Africa, but for the entire world.”
Her 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.
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 to share Our Lady of Kibeho with the world, and the narratives of the visionaries are awe-inspiring. In this time, as our own country seeks healing and unity, we ask Our Lady of Kibeho to pray for us.
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 favors 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.
Kateri Williams is the Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry for the Archdiocese of Denver.