Father Honoratus is our spiritual leader and Rwanda liaison. He was born and raised in Tanzania. While studying for the priesthood he received a cry for help from the Bishops of Rwanda; many priests had been killed during the genocide of 1994 and they were in great need. Father Honoratus knew the most precious gift he could give Rwanda was his priestly vocation and he traveled there to serve. While in Rwanda he met Father Pascal Bigirimana who had come from the country of Burundi for the same purpose. They were ordained together and served as priests in Rwanda during the difficult aftermath of the genocide and Rwanda’s civil war. While there they witnessed terrible suffering, many of the survivors were injured, sick or malnourished and the county was in ruins.
Later they both traveled to Chicago to further their studies and to serve as pastors at St. Peter and Paul Church in Chicago’s south side. However, they often discussed what more they could do to alleviate the suffering caused by the genocide in Rwanda. They felt the biggest challenges were poverty and a lack of education combined with the millions of elderly widows and young orphans resulting from the genocide. They decided to become involved with the Missionary Cooperative Plan. This plan gives priests from other countries the opportunity to share their experiences and challenges with Christians in the United States. As a result of this Father Pascal and Kristina Worm met and decided to start a nonprofit to benefit specifically the widows and orphans of Rwanda.
After the death of Father Pascal in 2012 Father Honoratus graciously accepted the responsibilities of leader and liaison for Lift up Their Hearts. When asked how long he would continue as our leader he replied “until all hearts in Rwanda have been lifted”. We are continually grateful for the wisdom and guidance of Father Honoratus.
Fr. Honoratus Mwageni graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Justice and Community Development at Loyola University Chicago. He currently serves as pastor of St. Peter and Paul Parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago and in addition to his work with Lift up Their Hearts he continues his work with the Missionary Cooperative Plan.
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But right now Rwanda is on the path to a brighter future. The people of Rwanda have turned away from the resentment and hatred that caused the violence of the past. The country is politically stable and it’s borders are secure. And Rwanda has embarked on an ambitious campaign to become the center of Information and Communications Technology in Africa. This would mean unlimited opportunities for financial growth and stability in East Africa. The income generated by the ICT business in Rwanda could provide better education, employment and income for Rwanda and its border countries.
However, Rwanda struggles to repair the emotional and physical injuries caused by the Genocide of the Tutsis. Today many older adults, witnesses to the genocide, have impaired physical and mental health. Their already meager income is threatened by their inablility to cope with daily struggles. The violence they witnessed and the grief of losing so many loved ones hampers their efforts to think clearly. Lift Up Their Hearts helps these survivors recover economically by providing them with small business opportunities and by improving their living conditions we give them hope for a better future.
Unfortunately the genocide also left many children vulnerable. Survivors who as children witnessed the genocide and its harrowing aftermath have been impacted by this history of violence. AIDS, the loss of their parents and many caring adults and Rwanda’s economic devastation have all taken their toll on Rwanda’s young population. Lift up Their Hearts helps these orphans by assisting in their education, improving their living conditions and by providing a means of income for young adults. .