Our Lady of Kibeho is the only Church-approved Marian apparition in the fifty-four nations of continental Africa. Spanning eight years and three visionaries at Kibeho College in Rwanda, it all began on November 28th, 1981, when Our Lady appeared to seventeen-year-old Alphonsine Mumureke while she was serving other children: “She could have chosen me when I was in a chapel praying the Rosary. But she chose me, to come to me, when I was serving.”
Mary appeared to twenty-year-old Nathalie Mukamazimpaka in January 1982 in the very public setting of the school’s courtyard; then, in what many accounts say was a result of skepticism that she was actually appearing, Mary came in visions to twenty-one-year-old Marie Claire Mukangango, who had been recorded as bullying Alphonsine for her visions, in March. The Blessed Mother appeared to be floating, but as time continued the paradise in which she appeared to the students became a field of flowers – flowers which, many have concluded, may represent the people of Kibeho. Crowds of curious locals and pilgrims began to gather in the school courtyard within the same month. As their numbers grew, the flowers in which Our Lady appeared multiplied.
In August of 1982, the only year in which all three students were visited by Mary, she showed them a vision of impending conflict and urged them to pray for unity and spread her messages to them far and wide. Visits to Nathalie emphasized this dire need for sacrificial penance and ceaseless prayer (which Nathalie still practices today at the Sanctuary in Kibeho), and the year of visions to Marie Claire called the Seven Sorrows of Mary to universal attention. Its companionship to the Rosary, she relayed, would not only enlighten devotees to identify their sins and temptations, but with the grace of God and Our Lady’s intercession, to also grow in strength and desire closeness to God – a closeness which would deeply encourage them to avoid sin.
Alphonsine’s visions concluded exactly eight years to the day later, November 28th in 1989, but public devotion had surfaced and spread as early as 1982. Bishop Augustin Misago of the newly founded Diocese of Gikongoro approved devotion in 1988, and while the Church investigated, Pope Saint John Paul II paid the visionaries a visit in 1990. He encouraged the Church at large to turn to Mary, who is the most simple and sure guide to holiness and unity. The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Kibeho (at its original construction, devoted to Our Lady of Sorrows) was completed in just over a year, opening in 1992.
The impending conflict foreshadowed in August 1982 came forth as the Rwandan genocide, which forced as many as 2 million to flee (including Alphonsine and Nathalie) and took the lives more than 800 thousand (including Marie Claire); yet even in the darkness of the violence, impossibly heightened tensions and long-lasting consequences, stories of Our Lady of Kibeho’s protection and intercession surfaced in survivors.
The apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho were officially approved in 2001, and a statue was chosen in 2003 through a collaborative contest with local artists, a jury of religious experts, and Nathalie Mukamazimpaka.
Kibeho became a gathering point for those who returned to Rwanda, looking for God and His Mother in all that they had endured. Still today, Our Lady of Kibeho reminds pilgrims of constant prayer, sacrificial penance, and miracles in the greatest of sufferings. She is the beacon of light that guides in darkness, always bringing us to Christ for strength, for peace, for unity, and for consolation.
Our Lady of Kibeho, pray for us!
Our Lady is celebrated under many names, from popular apparitions to small-town titles. Each reveal something different about the Blessed Mother to us – and affirms what we already know of her love and intercessory power! Deepen your devotion to Our Lady with Miracles, Mysteries, & Mary, a monthly collection of stories, Church teaching, reflections, and so much more – guaranteed to expand your knowledge of Our Blessed Mother. Sign up today to receive this Marian content, right to your inbox, and check out our archive page to catch up on our year of Our Lady!