Apr 22, 2008
by Dan Valenti
The news from the Marian mission in Rwanda, Africa, can be summed up in one word: sunny. It’s a word fitting for a region of the world where the sun shines intensely, sometimes mercilessly; where the needs are daunting; and where a small band of Marians and friends pay no heed of the challenge’s severity.
“Sunny” doesn’t mean a fairy-tale ending for a nation that’s been through the horrors of genocide. There’s too much gritty reality for Pollyanna, and yet, because of the enormous difference a few dedicated people are making, the people in Kibeho, Rwanda, have more of the most precious gift of all: hope.
Hope in Kibeho, site of the only Church-approved apparition of the Blessed Mother in Africa, comes from the care of compassionate people providing not a handout but a hand up. Specifically, hope arrived in the dual guise of a celebration and a shipment.
On Nov. 28 last year, about 30,000 pilgrims, 200 priests, and all the bishops of Rwanda gathered in Kibeho to celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Kibeho, hosted by the Marians of the Immaculate Conception. Special guests included the Papal Nuncio and Cardinal Ivan Dias from the Vatican, main celebrant at Mass.
“The Cardinal gave an outstanding homily,” says Fr. Leszek Czelusniak, MIC, who heads the Marian mission there. “He summed up the message Our Lady from 1981. It included a call to prayer, repentance, and the offering up of suffering. Cardinal Dias especially emphasized salvific suffering and embracing the cross of Christ in our lives.”
Father Les then shared an astounding fact: The Mass went on for six hours under a burning sun, with no complaints or leaving early. He says this can be viewed as a sign of how seriously Rwandans have embraced Mary’s counsel: “Kibeho is now emerging as an important shrine not just in Rwanda or Africa, but for the entire world.”
Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Bryan Thatcher, MD, director of Eucharistic Apostles of The Divine Mercy (EADM, a Marian apostolate), a 40-foot, sea-land container filled with supplies arrived in Kibeho late in 2007. EADM volunteers collected a massive cache of items, including:
• Basic medical supplies
• Sophisticated hospital equipment
• Crutches and wheelchairs for people who lost legs during the genocide
• Computers for the high schools in Kibeho.
“In the name of all missionaries,” Father Les says, “we thank EADM for their help, which will improve health and education for the people of Rwanda. With EADM, we are following Jesus — not only preaching the Gospel but also restoring health.”
This is the second massive sea-land container EADM has delivered to Rwanda. The first was sent in May 2004. EADM took advantage of serendipity for the first shipment. A monumental bronze stature of The Divine Mercy was being shipped in a sea-land box, with room left over. Bryan and his team heard about it and went to work, putting in the shipment 500,000 images of The Divine Mercy and medical supplies.
Initial plans are in the works for a third container, though no timetable has been set. Nonetheless, EADM is now on the hunt for new items to send to Rwanda. It’s hard to calculate the good that can come out of the most basic donations.