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OTHER TITLE: Mother of the Word

VISIONARIES: Alphonsine Mumureke, Natalie Mukamazimpaka, Marie Claire Mukangango


FIRST APPARITION: November 28, 1981

LAST APPARITION: November 28, 1989

APPROVED: June 29, 2001



”... I have heard your prayers. I would like it if your companions had more faith,

because some of them do not believe enough.

I want people to trust and love me as a Mother,

because I want to lead them to my Son, Jesus.

Now watch as I return to Heaven to be with my Son”.




  Thirteen years before the bloody 1994 genocide that swept across Rwanda and left more than a million people dead, the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ appeared to eight young people in the remote village of Kibeho. Through these visionaries, Mary and Jesus warned of the looming holocaust, which (they assured) could be averted if Rwandans opened their hearts to God and embraced His love.


  Mary also sent messages to government and church leaders to instruct them how to end the ethnic hatred simmering in their country. She warned them that Rwanda would become “a river of blood” if the hatred of the people was not quickly quelled by love. Some leaders listened, but very few believed. The prophetic and apocalyptic warnings tragically came true during 100 horrible days of savage bloodletting and mass murder.


  Much like what happened at similar sites such as Fatima and Lourdes, the messengers of Kibeho were at first mocked and disbelieved. But as miracle after miracle occurred in the tiny village, tens of thousands of Rwandans journeyed to Kibeho to behold the apparitions. After the genocide, and two decades of rigorous investigation, Our Lady of Kibeho became the first and only Vatican-approved Marian (related to Mary) site in all of Africa. But the story still remained largely unknown.


  Two books by one of the survivors of the bloody genocide, Immaculee Ilibagiza, (Our Lady of Kibeho and Left to Tell) tell the story of Our Lady’s apparitions and also the bloody genocide as only one who experienced it could. As her idyllic world was ripped apart as her family was brutally murdered, Immaculee miraculously survived the slaughter. For 91 days, she and seven other women huddled silently together in the cramped bathroom of a local pastor’s home while hundreds of machete-wielding killers hunted for them.


  It was during those endless hours of unspeakable terror that Immaculee discovered the power of prayer, eventually shedding her fear of death and forging a profound and lasting relationship with God. She emerged from her bathroom hideout having truly discovered the meaning of unconditional love---a love so strong that she was able to seek out and forgive her family’s killers. Her remarkable journey through the darkness of genocide should inspire anyone whose life has been touched by fear, suffering, and loss.


  It is partly by our human nature, it seems, that we become so easily divided by the things that ought to unite us, as Jesus predicted in the Gospel of Matthew: “You will hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not alarmed, for these things must happen, but it will not yet be the end” (Mt 24:5-6). It is into this reality that the Mother of God appears, alternately warning us of the reality of evil and reassuring us of the abundant mercies that are available to those who love Jesus enough to pick up their cross, as did Mary’s Son, and follow Him all the way home.


  In the apparitions at Kibeho, the Blessed Mother revealed herself as the “Mother of the Word.” This is most significant. As Mother of the Word, Mary plays a vital role in the economy of salvation. She is the Mother of God and our mother, who shows her great concern for her children. As Vatican II teaches: “By her maternal charity, she cares for the brethren of her Son, who still journey on earth surrounded by dangers and difficulties, until they are led into the happiness of their true home”.




  Part of German East Africa from 1897 to 1918, Rwanda became a Belgium trusteeship under the League of Nations mandate after World War 1, along with neighboring Burundi.


  Rwanda’s colonial period, during which the ruling Belgians favored the minority Tutsis over the Hutus, exacerbated the tendency of the few to oppress the many, creating a legacy of tension that  exploded into violence even before Rwanda gained its independence.


  A Hutu revolution in 1959 forced as many as 330,000 Tutsis to flee the country, making them an even smaller minority. By 1961, victorious Hutus had forced Rwanda's Tutsi monarch into exile and declared the country a republic. After a United Nations referendum that same year, Belgium officially granted independence to Rwanda in July, 1962.




  Kibeho is a small village located in southwestern Rwanda. The apparitions there began on November 28, 1981, at a time of increasing tension between the Tutsi and Hutu groups. The apparitions began when six girls and one boy claimed to see the Blessed Virgin Mary and Jesus. But only the visions of the first three, 17 year old Alphonsine, 20 year old Natalie, and 21 year old Marie-Claire were approved by the Bishop. These girls attended a Catholic College in Kibeho, Rwanda. The Virgin appeared to them with the name “Nyina wa Jambo”, the “Mother of the Word”, which is synonymous to “umubyeyi w'imana” that is, “Mother of God”, as she herself explained.


  Alphonsine Mumureke’s apparitions lasted eight years beginning November 28, 1981 and ending November 28, 1989. Natalie Mukamezimpaka’s apparitions lasted almost a year beginning in January, 1982, and ending December 3, 1983. Marie-Claire Mukangango’s apparitions lasted six months beginning March 2, 1982, and ending September 15, 1982.


  These apparitions occurred at the College where the three girls lived, and usually always occurred when the girls were in the presence of others. The other students and faculty members would try to disrupt the three girls during their apparitions by pinching them, shining bright lights in their eyes, sticking them with needles and burning them with lit candles.


  Alphonsine Mumureke was helping out in the cafeteria, when she heard somebody in a strong but lovely voice, “soft as air and sweeter than music”, say “My child” .... Going out into the hallway, she immediately saw a brilliant, luminous, white cloud, materializing in mid-air a few feet in front of her. An incredibly beautiful Lady emerged from the cloud, floating between the floor and ceiling in a pool of shimmering light. She wore a flowing white dress with a white veil that covered her hair. Her hands were clasped in front of her in a gesture of prayer- her slender fingers pointed toward Heaven.  Alphonsine said that her skin and complexion was of incomparable beauty. She wore no shoes- just like all of the villagers. As the beautiful figure drifted toward Alphonsine, her feet never touched the ground. Waves of love emanated from Mary. Alphonsine felt compelled to drop to her knees, sensing a divine presence. “Who are you?” she asked. “I am the Mother of the Word,” replied Mary. And then Mary asked the amazed girl, “of all the things in Heaven, what makes you happy?” Alphonsine replied immediately, “I love God and his Mother who have given us their Son, who has saved us”. Mary replied, smiling, “It is true. I have come to assure you of this. I have heard your prayers. I would like it if your companions had more faith, because some of them do not believe enough. I want people to trust and love me as a Mother, because I want to lead them to my Son, Jesus. Now watch as I return to Heaven to be with my Son”.


  Then Mary smiled and rose gracefully upward, vanishing into the clouds dwindling light.  Alphonsine collapsed on the floor in a stupor and could not be roused for 15 minutes. Almost everyone in the dining room had heard her speaking to someone! Now a group was in the hallway, trying to revive her. She was totally exhausted and had trouble getting to her feet. When she told of her experience, nobody believed her. As more experiences continued, so did the harsh ridicule, teasing, and hurtful comments.


  On one occasion she was walking along with a group of girls when she suddenly dropped to her knees as though she had been shot. She landed heavily on her knees and stared at the ceiling exactly like she had the day before. Her face lit up in ecstasy, smiling peacefully with tears running down her cheeks. The transformation was so sudden and dramatic that some of the girls began to believe. Others howled with laughter, waving their hands in front of her eyes and shouting in her ears. But she did not blink, flinch, or react. She did not see the other girls any longer- only the beautiful lady hovering above her again in the same soft, glorious light. Mary was “the most beautiful woman” she had ever seen and she said her skin was neither black or white, but “shined like polished ivory”. She did not tell the girls that Mary was giving her important messages to deliver to government officials- even the Hutu president- about their policies of discrimination against the Tutsis, praying the Rosary everyday, following the Ten Commandments.


  On another occasion her classmates would toss rosaries at her while in ecstasy, trying to hook them on her head like a ring-toss game. Some girls were respectful and laid their rosaries in front of her, hoping that Mary might bless them. When Mary told Alphonsine to pick them up so that she could bless them, the girl reached blindly into the pile of all the rosaries, unaware of the girls around her, and managed to only select those of the respectful girls. Those rosaries from the hecklers “stuck to the ground like anchors” and could not be lifted.


  At the end of each apparition, Mary would tell Alphonsine exactly when she would next appear and local villagers started planning their schedules around them! Word spread like fire to many other villages, and school officials were afraid that the attention-seeking teenager was going to turn their school and parish into a national embarrassment. One of the priests gave permission to the harshest heckler, Marie-Claire, to go ahead and torment her even further! So she organized a group of tormentors to pull her hair, twist her fingers, pinch her very hard, scream in her ears, and shine a powerful flashlight in her eyes. Bur Alphonsine had no reaction whatsoever to any of this because she was in exstasy with the Virgin Mary. One day Marie-Claire held a burning candle under her right arm, but still there was no reaction. The priest, who was encouraging the harassment in order to expose her as a fake, now told Marie-Claire to stick a long needle several inches deep into Alphonsine’s arm during the next ecstasy. Alphonsine still showed no response as she continued to happily chat with Mary. But she started begging Mary to let the other students see her because Alphonsine was tired of the disbelief and ridicule.

  Some of the faithful students also began praying for Mary to appear to others. There was still a strong group of doubters led by Marie-Claire, who was more outraged than ever, determined to expose fraud. Even the priest who had encouraged her harassment, told her to back off now from being so mean. It would take a miracle to change Marie-Claire, and then it happened!


  On March 1, 1982, Marie-Claire fainted during a walk in the garden between classes. She found herself in a dark area with an odor of human waste and decaying flesh, so disgusting that she felt like vomiting. She ran blindly in the darkness, hoping that she would find her school- and banged into the front door. The darkness disappeared.


  As daylight returned, she found two classmates were actually holding her up and her clothes were drenched. They told her that she had been found semi-conscious on the floor of the chapel-and a nun had doused her with holy water to revive her. Apparently, hours had passed. Shaken and confused, she tried to recover in her bedroom-only to be back in the darkness again within minutes. This time menacing beings approached and hovered near her, threatening her with more visits from even more dark beings.


  Again, she awoke on the floor of the chapel with classmates surrounding her. Alphonsine handed her a small statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and said, “Keep her with you to protect you from the evil one. Last night when the Blessed Mother appeared to me, she warned me that the devil was planning to attack students at the school. She says that we can protect ourselves from the enemy by wearing our rosaries.”


  The girls told her that she had some kind of strange seizure or trance. Although confused, she remained adamant not to accept Alphonsine or her messages. But the next day in class as they were singing a hymn, she felt strange and bolted toward the door to try to avoid a blackout. This time she found herself in a beautiful landscape of manicured grass with dewy droplets reflecting a rainbow-colored sky. A soft sweet voice came out of nowhere, calling her name, “Mukangango.” Fearing that this still all might be a trick of the devil, she spun around, fists clenched, looking to defend herself.  The soft voice filled with motherly love called her name again. Marie-Claire responded, “Okay, you’ve found me. I am Mukangango. I’m here, and “I’m ready to fight!”.


  With an affectionate laugh, Mary asked : “Why would you want to fight me, my child? What is making you so afraid? Never be afraid of your mother!...There is no need to be afraid of them. I promise the things of the night that threatened you will not frighten you again. Sing a song using these words: Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”


  Marie-Claire felt ashamed that Mary was describing her own recent and nasty behavior. She refused to sing, so Mary brought her friend Anathalie into the scene to hold her hand and help her sing. Then she awakened on the chapel floor again, surrounded by thirty students who had witnessed her in a state of ecstasy, holding hands with Anathalie, and singing to the Blessed Virgin. Word spread within minutes across the campus that the sworn enemy of the visionaries had confessed to being visited by Mary as well. Marie-Claire’s rude, aggressive, and negative manner had essentially vanished overnight.


  Later on, Mary showed her a black rosary, “The Rosary of the Seven Sorrows,” and taught her how to pray with it, making it her mission to reintroduce it to the world. Marie-Claire asked Mary if her sister, who had died a year ago, was in heaven, but Mary explained that she was still in purgatory, waiting. The visionary complained that their family had prayed extensively for her, so why wasn’t that good enough? “Praying for your departed loved ones is a great comfort to them and a great help for all souls in purgatory, but people still must work to earn a place in heaven.” However, in a few days, Mary reported to Marie-Claire that “today your sister entered heaven and joined your father”, much to her delight.


  A priest at the high school didn’t believe any of the girls, calling them a “pack of liars” and wanting the three thrown out of school. Marie-Claire approached him with a message from Mary about his “unjustly tormenting her children” and needing to do penance. “She wants you to kneel down tonight, hold your arms open to God, and pray your rosary three times.” But the priest called her a liar and ordered her to stay in her dormitory room until morning when he would deliver a “proper punishment”.


  That night, the priest decided to play it safe-just in case the visions were authentic- and locked himself in his room, drawing the curtains, and knelt on the floor. He spread his arms wide and recited the rosary three times. When he finished, he placed his rosary into his nightstand, placing some books and magazines on top of it before closing the drawer. The next morning he summoned Marie-Claire for her punishment. But she was smiling cheerfully when she arrived, and before he could speak she exclaimed: “Father, the Blessed Mother is very pleased that you prayed your rosary exactly as she asked you to, but she told me this morning that you shouldn’t have piled all those books and magazines on the rosary when you put it back in the drawer. She says to keep it with you at all times and pray with it everyday.”


  The priest was stunned at this amazing validation, and his heart was immediately converted, becoming a huge supporter of the visionaries from then on! Now, hundreds of curious villagers wanted to visit the campus or hang out near the college dormitory. Three of the visionaries took mystical journeys with Mary. Before Alphonsine went on her journey, Mary instructed her to inform the school director “not to bury her-even if she appears dead”. The stunned director knew by now to take Alphonsine seriously. She told them that she would be away for the whole weekend. Failing to show up for the Friday evening meal, a nun went to check on her on Saturday morning. She was stunned to find her lying unresponsive on her bed, unable to be awakened or even budge an inch. The director grabbed the school nurse and summoned Abbot Augustin Misago, a leading member of the Commission of Enquiry. Soon, there were many concerned officials, priests, and others in attendance as Alphonsine truly appeared to be dead. Medical experts concluded that she was still alive, but her pulse rate was impossibly slow and her blood pressure was too low with breathing almost nonexistent, a shallow breath once a minute. As many as six men tried with all their might to roll her over, separate her clasped hands, or lift her from the bed, but without any success! Eighteen hours later, Alphonsine awoke, livelier than ever-with sparkling eyes, relaxed muscles, and a glowing face. Later, she described her journey. “The first place Mary took me was dark and very frightening, filled with shadows and groans of sadness and pain. She called it the Place of Despair, where the road leading away from God ends. Another place was filled with the golden light of happiness and laughter and songs sung by so many joyous voices. Mary explained that I could not see them while I was still living below. But one called out my name and said that she had been a visionary, too, and had been persecuted for her visions. But she joyfully urged me to have faith and confidence in the Blessed Mother, for she would protect me.”

  With Mary promising to appear on August 15, 1982 for the Feast of the Assumption,there was much festivity, anticipation, and excitement. More than 20,000 people turned out-some hoping for cures for their sick relatives. But when Mary appeared, the visionaries' efforts to sing to her were cut short unexpectedly by Mary’s tears of pain and grief. Mary indicated that her efforts were not appreciated, and then one horrifying vision after another came to Alphonsine, causing her to scream in terror. There were images of destruction, trees exploding into flames, torture, human carnage, severed human heads gushing blood, and a vast valley piled high with the remains of a million rotting, headless corpses with not a single soul left alive to bury the dead. Every visionary received the same horrific

images from the weeping Virgin that day. For hours their horrified cries echoed through the hills, all of them describing “rivers of blood, savage murders, and the rotting remains of hundreds of thousands of people.”


  The visions lasted anywhere from several months to a year for the visionaries, ending in 1989. Ten thousand were in attendance for the final contact for Alphonsine on November 28, 1989. Although it was raining steadily, the girl remained strangely dry during her experience. Here are some of the Virgin’s words on that final visit: “My children, in truth, I am not staying as long as long as I used to do as I have told you what more I needed from you. As I said, I want to remind you that I am happy. I am happy with the fruits that were born in Rwanda since I came here. Don’t worry about the difficulties you have. Nothing is better than having God. My dear children, problems exist everywhere, but the most important thing is to have an accepting heart without complaining.”


  “You all who are called crazy because you like to pray, all of you who are called thieves, those to whom they say that you are losing time by giving your life to God, I tell you that one day you will be happy. All of you who are sick with incurable diseases, a good heart surpasses all; there are no riches that are beyond a clean heart. All of you who have difficulties of all kinds, there are difficulties everywhere, in all walks of life. When they don’t go away, offer them to God. Every good christian is requested to offer a sacrifice. All of you who have problems in your families, think of the Holy Family, who lived in poverty, and who lived among those who didn’t understand them, and with the problems you have, come close to them. All of you who have dedicated your lives to God, a life that is not easy. The most important thing is to be faithful to your promises.”


  “All of you young people, when you are young, you think that you can do anything. Be careful not to fall and damage yourself for good. All of you leaders, who have the capacity to represent many people, don’t kill, but save; don’t be greedy, but share with others, and don’t attempt to hurt those who are trying to expose your wrongdoings. I tell you, anyone you want to hurt, because they love people and are defending human rights, because they are defending the cause of the poor and the simple, because they are defending anything good and trying to love God, I tell you, whatever you do will be in vain.”


  “My children, saying goodbye to you doesn't mean that I am forgetting Africa, not even the whole world. It doesn’t mean that I am going to forget Rwandans. I am asking you not to forget the love I have loved you with when I came to your country.”


  Mother Mary also told the visionaries that “suffering is a part of our daily bread while still on earth.” She taught them how to accept and suffer well-and that suffering leads to heaven. Suffering teaches us many things that we would otherwise not learn. “Each person carries a cross, but what is important is to offer our sufferings to God and live through them without complaining.”

  Our Lady said: “if her warning came to pass, not to cry for those who would die because the gates of heaven would be open for them as they will have died innocently.”


  “Cry for those who will remain alive because many will be tempted to violence and revenge.  Others will not be able to bear to live with the wrong they have done to others.”


  “There will be some who will be left; they will be left to tell of the goodness of God, because there is nothing else that could console them after the pain they would have experienced.”


  Alphonsine echoes this lesson in her own learning and these words: “With all I had to suffer, I now understand that it was necessary for me to go through it to know the truth and learn about life. You see, if one lives without problems, one will never learn the lessons that one learns through resolving those problems. It would not be good to live without problems.” Our Lady reminds us that the child of Mary always bears crossed graciously. The child of Mary dies with many words still in the heart. The child of Mary crosses with joy. The child of Mary sees the world as NOTHING. (Things do not matter.)




The Genocide


  By the 1990’s, Rwanda, a small country with an overwhelmingly agricultural economy, had one of the highest population densities in Africa. About 85% of its population was Hutu, the rest were Tutsa, along with a small number of Twa, a pygmy group who were the original inhabitants of Rwanda.


  As horribly predicted by the Virgin Mary, a terrible genocide came to Rwanda in the spring of 1994, with more than one million innocent souls murdered and chopped to pieces by the ruling tribal government in a effort to exterminate all those who belonged to the Tutsi tribe. Thousands upon thousands of decapitated bodies were dumped into rivers that ran thick with human blood. Marie-Claire and her husband both lost their lives.


  During the Rwandan genocide that took place between April 7, 1994 and July 15, 1994, members of the Hutu ethnic majority in Rwanda murdered as many as 800,000 people, mostly of the Tutsi minority, Twa and also moderate Hutus. Some estimated that over one million people were murdered. Started by the Hutu nationalists in the capital of Kigali, the genocide spread throughout the country with shocking speed and brutality, as ordinary citizens were incided by local officials and the Hutu Power government to take up arms against their neighbors. Kibeho itself was the site of two huge massacres: the first at the parish church in April, 1994, and the second a year later in April, 1995 where more than 5,000 refugees who had taken shelter there were shot by soldiers.


  By the time the Tutsi-led Rwandese Patriotic Front gained control of the country through a military offensive in early July, 1995, hundreds of thousands of Rwandans were dead and two million refugees (mainly Hutus) fled Rwanda, exacerbating what had already become a full-blown humanitarian crisis. In April, 1995, Marie Claire Mukangango, one of the three girls who had experienced Marian apparitions was killed along with her husband during the genocide.




  The amazing and detailed accuracy of Mary’s predictions convinced everybody of her authentic messages. Finally, on June 29, 2001, after 20 long years of investigation and seven years after the genocide, with overwhelming evidence, Bishop Augustin Misago declared the authenticity of the apparitions during a solemn Mass concelebrated on the solemnity of St. Peter and Paul.


  According to the Bishop’s declaration: “Yes, the Virgin Mary did appear in Kibeho on November 28, 1981, and over the course of the following six months. There are more reasons to believe this than to deny it."


  The Bishop could not, however, confirm the veracity of all the people who reported apparitions; the visions claimed by Stephanie Mukamurnzi and Agnes Kamagaju, for example, were rejected. Nor could he consider the alleged visions of Jesus reportedly experienced by a boy, Emmanuel Segastasha, from 1982. While these apparitions have yet to be approved, the bishop in charge of these matters says that while the investigation is suspended for now, the book is not closed, so it’s possible that more visionaries may receive Church approval in the future.


  On July 2, 2001, the Holy See added Kibeho to the list of approved Marian apparition sites releasing the declaration of Bishop Augustin Misango of Gikongoro approving the apparitions of the three visionaries: Alphonsine Mumureke, Natalie Mukamazimpake and Marie-Claire Mukangango.




  The Blessed Mother asked that a Marian sanctuary be constructed near the site of the apparitions. The construction of this Sanctuary began November 28, 1992 and was called the “Shrine of our Lady of Sorrows”.


  In 2003, Cardinal Cecenzio Sepe, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, consecrated the Marian shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows at the site of the apparitions in Kibeho. He expressed hope that Kibeho would become a place in which the Rwandan people would be born and renewed in faith and forgiveness; and today love and peace do flow from Kibeho as a place of spiritual hope and renewal.


  The Shrine for Our Lady of Kibeho has become a place of worship and prayer for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from across Africa, many of whom claimed miraculous healings at the site, yet most of the world hasn’t even heard about this blessed place. Who knows, perhaps eventually Kibeho will become as well known as the famed and widely celebrated apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima and Lourdes. After all, the messages Jesus and Mary brought forth at Kibeho are of love---which today’s world so desperately needs to hear, and as a result of the Vatican’s approval, the

apparitions at Kibeho now sit at the same level as the Fatima and Lourdes apparitions.




Prayer to Our Lady of Kibeho (Rwanda): 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. 




https://in defense of the apparitions/Kibeho

Our Lady of Kibeho, Mary speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa by Immaculee Ilibagiza with Steve Irwin

Left to Tell, Discovering God amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza with Steve Irwin

Virgin Mother, Queen, Encountering Mary in Time and Tradition, by Robert L. Fastiggi and Michael O’Neill

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