Immaculee Enlightens about Marian Visits in Africa


This week, the Catholic Church celebrated the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into heaven. The holy day took on special significance to me this particular summer.

For the past five years or so, I’ve been hearing about Immaculee Ilibagizafrom my daughter’s godmother and my good friend, Mary. Each year our families have gathered in the fall at Camp Wilderness near Park Rapids, Minn., I would hear yet another rendition, based on another of Immaculee’s books — the most famous of which, I would say, was her first, Left to Tell.

Mary brought Immaculee’s story to life for me through her lively enthusiasm and vivid descriptions of how Immaculee had survived the Rwandan genocide of the early 1990s. And yet, somehow, I’d never picked up any of Immaculee’s work. However, with Immaculee’s impending visit to our area next month, I was commissioned to write a preview article for our local newspaper, and so I had the privilege of interviewing Immaculee by phone from her current home in New York two weeks ago. To prepare, I borrowed two of Mary’s books — her second, Led by Faith, and her third, Our Lady of Kibeho.

I’m towards the end of the latter now, and it has been a fascinating read, just as the former was. Reading about the Marian apparitions to a group of Rwandan children in the early 1980s has been so enlightening. I’ve always been drawn to Mary, but I’m embarrassed to say that until recently, I’d either not heard of or thought a lot about her appearances in Africa.

Christianity, including Catholicism, has grown in Africa. And though these apparitions don’t account for all of that growth, the 1980s visits most certainly influenced a spike in devotion of the faithful. They also provided something of a prophetic warning of the atrocities that would unfold just 13 years later.

Reading this story from Immaculee’s perspective, though, has not only informed, but touched me personally. It has brought to mind my feelings when I was introduced to Our Lady of Lourdes back in my childhood, and how I wished, for a time, that she would appear to me. Until I became too frightened and decided perhaps I was not equipped for such a visit after all.

The day I interviewed Immaculee, she was set to leave for Rwanda with her family after our visit. I was curious what the purpose of her visit home might be, and she said they were traveling back to take part in a Holy Day pilgrimage. Since this was at the beginning of August, I can only assume the visit had something to do with the Assumption.

On September 8, I will travel with Mary to Grafton, ND, to meet Immaculee and worship at Mass with her and hear her presentation in person. I am already grateful to her for what she’s offered me through the two books of hers I’ve read. And though nobody asked for a endorsement, I would strongly encourage a read of Immaculee’s books. Her faith is so precious, and her devotion, so inspiring. I do believe God has led her to her work of writing and presenting very purposefully.

Through Immaculee’s efforts of recording stories from her childhood, from the holocaust that befell her country, and details that surrounded Mary’s visits, I’ve been reminded of the pure and deep love Mary has for all of us. And though her primary mission remains pointing us to her son, our Lord, she’s also here to acknowledge our humanity and draw us close, to reassure us that there’s still time to make a difference, and that we can help transform this world of woe into something that brings life, hope and peace!

I’ll be back after Immaculee’s visit to share more of her message. For now, I would encourage anyone who hasn’t already to find Immaculee’s work. If you’re looking for a good, end-of-summer read, you will not be disappointed by what she offers. Her writings are packed full of important messages that have practical implications for those of us in the world today.

Q4U: Have you read any of Immaculee’s books? What did you think?


Copyright 2012 Roxane Salonen


About Author

Roxane B. Salonen, a wife and mother of five from Fargo, N.D., is an award-winning children’s author and freelance writer who also enjoys Catholic radio hosting and speaking. Roxane co-authored former Planned Parenthood manager Ramona Trevino’s memoir, Redeemed by Grace. Her work is featured on "Peace Garden Passage" at her website,


  1. I have read “Left to Tell” and “Our Lady of Kibeho.” Both are amazing, and I highly recommend them, too! I would *love* the chance to hear Immaculee speak. I am sure it will be a wonderful conference!

  2. Roxane B. Salonen on

    Greetings Sharon, Melissa and Sharon, how nice to hear from others who have been inspired by Immaculee’s story and words. When I meet her, I will share with her that I’ve bumped into a few other fans while mentioning her work. Melissa, my friend Mary has mentioned that book too and it’s undoubtedly on my list! Bless you all and continue to seek Jesus through the heart of Mary.

  3. Roxane B. Salonen on

    Oops, I just caught my error. Sarah, I didn’t mean to duplicate Sharon’s name and leave you out. That’s what I get for reading and writing at 11 p.m. 🙂 I meant to address you on the second reference, of course. 🙂

  4. After reading our Lady of Kibeho last fall, I purchased 13 copies and gave some of them to family members and others are being used to evangelize when the moment seems most suited.

    I’m a lay member of the Marian Movement of Priests, founded by our Blessed Mother and Fr. Steffano Gobbi, who trusts that the present time makes the protection of our Blessed Mother both critical and necessary.

    May Mary, the Mother of God give us safe passage to our desired home in heaven and may we heed her messages and steadfastly seek her prayers for us.

    • Roxane B. Salonen on

      John, thanks for sharing! Her work and life are definitely treasures through which we can be blessed!

  5. I highly recommend Immaculee’s books and strongly urge the faithful to pray as Our Lady of Kibeho recommended before the genocide. We are heading to world wide genocide and prayer is needed to stave off another holocaust.

    • Roxane B. Salonen on

      Thanks for the reminder, Ingrid. We need to be vigilant. Not to leave in fear, but to not live in darkness and ignorance. We need to draw near to Christ, and Mary will show us how!

  6. I read this book a while back. Was very interesting read. I had known of Kibeho previously.

    I too was introduced to God, to Jesus, through Our Lady of Lourdes in the grotto in the chapel when I was five years old. My mother took me. All the little candles. I asked, “Who is the girl holding the white stick ?”

    “She’s St Bernadette praying to Our Lady.”

    “Who’s Our Lady, the Woman looking up to the sky ?”

    “She is God’s mammy/mom and She is praying to Her Son Jesus for all of us.”

    “Who is God ?”

    “God made all of us and loves us.”

    I lit a little candle with my mother’s help.

    My search had begun – to find out who this God might be, who Jesus was – is”.

    I was led down a path in life that distorted the Face of Jesus to such a horrific degree I could no longer look to it. Could not pray to Jesus or God as a Father.

    A priest made sure of that, and later, when wishing to deal with it in my 40s – I was almost destroyed.

    But the Woman walked with me every single step of the way, and when falling into darkness and despair so often – She raised me up or sent an angel – another person/s to help.

    The Woman who stood by Jesus – stands with us too. We, each of us, like John, should stand by Her, Our Mother, and John, as we behold the Saviour – Jesus.

    A a great Mother, Teacher and Friend to me, She imaged Jesus perfectly and helped me see His true Face once more. The Beauty of Christ – God as Father. I am near the end of a very long tunnel.

    Mary is a wonderful Mother. Never doubt.

    “Thine eyes of Mercy towards us and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb – Jesus.”

    A friend said today. “Just as She did back in the day – She protected Her Son Jesus. And She protected His face so horribly defaced and torn by power hungry hypocrites, that you might behold it again one day, and begin once more to see the image of God in your own soul – and the very Jesus your earthly mother told you She prays to that day, and now, when you were five years old.”

    I never lost faith in Her – love, and She could not lose for any of us – Her children.

    Thank you Mother. I love You.

    I am not a ‘mom’ – just want to share with you mothers what a great Mother you already know we all have.

    God bless

    Jesus give us peace of heart and soul.

    Mary guide

    All is turned to the Good for those seeking the Good God – to know and love Him – all Love Itself.

    Ave Maria “Pray, pray and pray.” For peace in hearts, families, societies and this world.

    Kevin (Emerald Isle)

    • Roxane B. Salonen on

      Kevin, thank you very much for sharing this. I am so glad I wrote about Immaculee so I could be enriched by what has been shared here as a result. May Mary gently guide you through the rest of your life!

  7. I have read Left to Tell, Our Lady of Kibeho, and The Boy Who Met Jesus. They are extremely important messages for today. heaven is speaking to us through these visionaries.

    • Roxane B. Salonen on

      Patty, yes, the visitations certainly do seem very authentic, and worthy taking heed. I feel very grateful we have Mary to help lead us to Jesus.

  8. Authentic – yes. The apparitions of Our Lady of Kibeho are the first and the only Vatican approved Marian apparitions on the entire continent of Africa….just like Lourdes, Fatima etc…

    • Roxane B. Salonen on

      Yes, Brian, it’s incredible to know these apparitions are among those that the Vatican has validated. Immaculee did a very thorough job of detailing what transpired. Told as a personal testimony from her childhood perspective initially, her rendition made it even more endearing and powerful.

      • Roxane,

        The feedback is incredible! If you look at my CatholicMom bio photo, you’ll see the promotion poster for our Immaculee event over my shoulder on the wall! I knew very clearly, just two chapters into Left to Tell, that Our Mother and our Lord were asking something very special of me. Immaculee’s 2010 visit – sixteen months in the planning, beginning during Advent of 2008, continues to bear fruit in our parish this day. Pick up some booklets for your family of the Rosary of the 7 sorrows, which Our Blessed Mother, in Kibeho, requested to be prayed. Our daughter loves to read the reflections as we pray this together.

  9. I never really understood what forgiveness was all about until I read Left to Tell. Immaculee’s powerful presence was also something my wife and i got to experience when we saw her speak during a Divine Mercy conference. I think once you either read or hear her description of what forgivness is and how it changed her life, it will change your life too

  10. Shirley Bachmeier on

    i have read two of Immaculee’s books and was truly blessed by her gift of sharing from the heart what has touched her life. The Lord has indeed graced her with great wisdom, humility, obedience and love in bringing her through the process of forgiveness that could only have come from God’s supernatural hand upon her that she grabbed unto and did not let go. I was especially touched by her love for her family, neighbors and friends and the family dynamics and community life they lived daily. The pain she bore in losing them seems unbearable but with God’s help and her obedience, she was able to carry her cross and it continues to give great glory to God in her writing and testimonies shared all over the world. Our Mother Mary is continuing to let us know the importance of working out our salvation and conversion to her Son. Her messages are ominous at times as they were in Kibeho; are her children listening? Do they want to hear? The dolors of Mary must be unbelieveable sorrowful when she deals with a people that do not want to be awaken and enter into her call on their lives. God have mercy on us all through His Son’s obedience unto death that we may all enter into eternal life. Shirley B from Bismarck, ND, your neighbor to the West.

    • Roxane B. Salonen on

      Shirley, nice to hear from a Bismarck gal! Bismarck is something of a second home to me. My mother grew up there and resides there now as well with my father. They met one summer, many years ago, while working at the capitol. 😉

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