Forgiving Jesus at Our Lady of Kibeho

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The National Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho has become a popular place of pilgrimage for both Rwandans and those coming from every corner of the world to hear the story of the Blessed Mother appearing to those three schoolgirls, warning them of the coming devastation and predicting the genocide that would soon cover the land in a river of blood. Immaculée Ilibagiza, herself a survivor of the genocide and a good friend of Father Ubald’s, frequently leads pilgrimages there. You can find more about her schedule here.

While traveling with Fr. Ubald, he told us the true story of a spiritual healing that had recently taken place at the shrine in Kibeho while he was preaching about forgiveness as the way to find peace. When Fr. Ubald challenged those present to forgive those who had harmed them, a man came forward to give testimony. He said he had grown very hard against God and the Church because of how he had suffered during the genocide, having lost so many people who had been dear to him — including his wife.

Years after the genocide, he had remarried a woman who was a devout Catholic, who had prayed for her new husband to find peace. When she heard that Father Ubald was having a retreat for victims of the genocide, she encouraged her husband to attend — but he refused. She did not press the issue, but continued to pray.

The day of the retreat, the man had a change of heart while he was out milking the cow. He called his wife to bring him some water to clean himself up, and told her that he was going to the retreat. They went to the church together, and when it came time for those who had been harmed to stand up and announce their intention to forgive, he announced, “The first person I forgive is Jesus.” He strongly believed that Jesus had turned his back on him back in 1994.

“Some were shocked, even horrified, that the man would say such a thing … ” admitted Father Ubald to me as he relayed the story. “But the next week he was back. He said to me, ‘Now it is I who must beg pardon. I must say I am sorry for keeping this hatred in my heart for so long.'” Like so many others, he had felt betrayed by the very people who should have shown him the love of God. “That is why we need so badly to build the Chapel of God the Father,” said Father Ubald. “The people need to be reminded that we are all children of one heavenly Father — God the Father.”

He took us inside, where the scaffolding still filled the sanctuary, though the workers had stopped building because there was no money to pay them. “I heard God very clearly tell me that this placed needed to be built. I pray every day that he will make a way for this to happen, so that everyone will hear of the God who loves like a good father.”

“I will help you, Father,” I found myself saying. My husband eyed me questioningly. We have two special needs teenagers and an elderly parent living with us, and I am only working half time. “I believe you have been given a mission from God — and I will tell people what I have seen, and pray with you that he will touch the right hearts to respond.”

If you would like to help, please make your donation here. No gift is too small. Each gift is an answered prayer.

Heidi Hess Saxton is Father Ubald’s editor at Ave Maria Press. His book, Forgiveness Makes You Free will be released in April 2019. You can read more of Heidi’s writing on her blog “Life on the Road Less Traveled.”

Our Lady of Kibeho, Pray for Us!

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For eight days my husband Craig and I traveled hundreds of miles with Fr. Ubald, over bumpy paths and winding roads. Despite its grim history, Rwanda is a beautiful place. Homes with miniature goats hug the roads, as banana groves and other crops line the mountainside above and the valleys below. On each side of the roads, the bright, resplendent textiles of the women’s dresses caught my eye as we drove past. And yet the large plastic jerry cans, carried by so many people, reminded us that few of these places have running water or indoor plumbing. While rich in natural beauty, Rwanda is also a place where many live in great poverty. Perhaps this is one of the reasons the Blessed Mother choose to come here in the 1980s, to remind her poor little ones that they had not been forgotten. OLK

We had just left the National Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho, and heard the story of the three school girl visionaries — Alphonsine, Marie-Claire, and Anathalie — who had been visited by Our Lady between  1981 and 1987, warning that Rwanda would become a “river of blood” if hatred was not quelled by love. (For more information about the appearances and visionaries, pick up a copy of Immaculée Ilibagiza’s Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa.) Two of the three visionaries were still living: Alphonsine was a religious sister there at the shrine. Natalie was a nun in Italy. Marie-Claire and her husband had been killed in the genocide.

Not far from the National Shrine, Father Ubald is overseeing another important pilgrimage site, the Chapel of God the Father. He had hoped to open it in time for the 25th anniversary of the genocide this spring, and is trusting God to provide the additional funds — $100,000 is needed to complete construction and to build the roads, toilets, and other infrastructure the government requires for it to be open to the public. (Please pray with us, that God would provide the resources needed, and ask the Lord if you might be able to help by making a donation here.)

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National Shrine of Our Lady of Kibeho

Next week I will give you an example of the healings that are taking place at Kibeho and in other places where Fr. Ubald is preaching and evangelizing about the power of forgiveness and mercy to bring healing and peace to those traumatized by violence. (Thank you to Katsey Long for providing these photographs, which were taken during the shooting of the documentary.)

Heidi Hess Saxton is Father Ubald’s editor at Ave Maria Press. His book, Forgiveness Makes You Free will be released in April 2019. You can read more of Heidi’s writing on her blog “Life on the Road Less Traveled.” If you are enjoying this blog series and would like to help Fr. Ubald, please make a tax-deductible donation to the Center for the Secret of Peace by clicking here.

Forgiveness Makes You Free: A Rwandan Story of Peace and Healing

Hello! My name is Heidi Saxton, and this picture is of me and my husband Craig getting ready to board a plane to Rwanda, where we would be helping Father Ubald to finish his new book with Ave Maria Press called Forgiveness Makes You Free. It will be released in April 2019, to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide. I will post preorder information for the book, in which Father shares his story of surviving the genocide and the five keys to finding peace and healing even in the most traumatic and painful circumstances of life. You won’t want to miss it!


Bestselling author of Left to Tell, Immaculée Ilibagiza, had this to say about Father’s book in the foreword:

Forgiveness Makes You Free is a gift of mercy from the hand of God. It tells the story of a priest who learned, step by step, to follow after Jesus and to present himself as a ‘living offering’ to God, who learned how to pray, how to forgive, how to resist the enemy, and how to receive the gifts God wanted to give him. Above all, it shows how he learned to follow after Jesus, no matter how much it cost him.”

Between now and then, I asked Father Ubald for permission to share experiences from our trip, to give you a better sense of the important work that is being accomplished among the Rwandan people through his ministry. As you read these posts in the coming weeks, please prayerfully consider how the Lord is asking you to support this important work. Thank you!

Heidi Hess Saxton is an acquisitions editor for Ave Maria Press. You can find her online through her blog Life on the Road Less Traveled.