1. BEFORE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF MUSHUBI PARISH (1929-1964)
Mushubi Parish has a long and proud history. The roots of the parish can be traced back to the early 1930s when the people had the idea of constructing a chapel in Mushubi.
Since 1929, Mushubi was located in the region of Bunyambiriri under the leardership of the Chief MANZI, the father of the late Bishop John Baptist GAHAMANYI. Mushubi was leaded by the assistant chief RWABUKWISI. On the other side of Mushubi there was Kibonwa sub-region leaded by the assistant chief RYAHAMA. Both MANZI and RYAHAMA were absolutely delighted that a chapel would be built in Mushubi; thus it would help the people from Mushubi because they were travelling a quite distance going to Kaduha for various church services. That idea of those chiefs was well welcomed by the missionaries serving Kaduha Parish. Subsequently the pastors of Kaduha Parish asked the chiefs a land, and they were given a lot of one hectare and later it had been expanded after paying 120 RFWs. A contract of purchase was done at Nyanza on September 20th, 1929 between Father VERHAEGHE representing the Catholic Chuch and Mr Louis LENAERTS representing the Resident of Rwanda.
Since that time, the priests started to think about establishing a parish in Mushubi.
Firstly, they built a house with a grass roof for the catechumens. The faithful were using it also for common prayer. That prayer was leaded by Mr Déogratias MUNYARUSHOKA, Mr Wenceslas TEGANYA, Mr Télesphore SEMURIMA, Mr Télesphore RUCYAHANA and Mr Aphrodis NKUNDIYE. When there was a priest from Kaduha to Mushubi, the mass was celebrated on the ground under the trees due to the good number of the Christians; the house for the catechumens could not serve as the church. For moving from Kaduha to Mushubi, the priests were using motorcycles, and the one who came had to spend some days at Mushubi. The catechumens from Mushubi side were using the catechumenate schools of Rukungu, Mujyejuru, Bitaba, Kageyo, Gakoma, Kibonwa, Buteteri (1936), Kivugiza (Gihumo), Runege (1948), Kizimyamuriro, Karambo, Nyaruhura, Twiya, Kabakina, Gifurwe, Bushigishigi, Gacundura, Tabire (Rugogwe), Bitandara, Mutengeri, Kamitari, Musaraba (1934), Bishyiga, Cyobe, Rusoyo ( of Mushubi), Rusoyo ( of Musaraba), Nyarukeri, Gatiti and other places near Mushubi. They were gathering at Mushubi for assessment; as for receiving the sacraments there were going to Kaduha Parish.
Even if the chiefs and their assistants wanted the church in Mushubi, they were not participating in the various activities of the Church; only their wives and their children were usually going to Kaduha for mass on some feasts. It had been confirmed by what happened between 1936 and 1954, when the assistant chief RWABUKWISI who was leading the Mushubi side did not welcome the construction of the church in Mushubi; on the contrary the chief MANZI and his assistant chief RYAHAMA supported the idea of construction. The assistant Chief RWABUKWISI put his opposition into practice when he built a brick house of four rooms in the plot that had been given earlier to the missionaries for the construction of the church at Mushubi and a house of residence for the priests. The priests reacted to that opposition. Father Stanislas de JAMBLINE appealed to the Administrator of Nyanza. Father Stanislas de JAMBLINE won the appeal, consequently the assistant chief RWABUKWISI was dispossessed after being given 64 000 RWFs as the cost of his house. That house had been used by the priests coming from Kaduha Parish when they had to stay for a short while at Mushubi.
Between 1945 and 1948, a school in banana leaves was erected at Buteteri. There was the first year and the second year in order to teach reading, writing and catechism. After finishing the second year, the pupils were going to Mushubi for the third year; for the 4th year and the 5th year they were going to Kaduha; for the 6th year they were going to Birambo in the diocese of Nyundo.
2. THE ESTABLISHMENT OF MUSHUBI PARISH (1964-1976)
The idea of constructing a church at Mushubi came from the zeal of the christians who were used to go to Kaduha Parish for various church activities. That zeal was seen in the catechumenate and the Movements of Catholic Action. That became motive behind for establishing a church at Mushubi in order to aid those Christians who were doing a long journey going to Kaduha; and they were showing that they were in dire need of a church nearby.
Before constructing a church at Mushubi, Father Stephen BETTENTRUP constructed a primary school of four rooms at Mushubi and a lodge for a nurse at Health Centre of Mushubi. Those buildings were constructed between 1957 and 1958. At that time, Father Stephen BETTENTRUP was still staying at Kaduha. Afterwards he decided to settle at Mushubi, staying in the house built by the chief RWABUKWISI. The following year in 1959, the cornerstone of the church of Mushubi was laid by Bishop Andrew PERRAUDIN. Father Stephen BETTENTRUP started constructing the foundation. After the completion of the foundation, he went back to Europe for a rest, and Father Anthony JANSSENS nicknamed “Rutubuka” (because of his fatness) took over from him; and the church was completed in 1961.
When the priests were constructing the church of Mushubi, the priests were eating the food cooked at Kaduha. The food was brought in the box called “iposita” (Post) to Mushubi by their cook named Faustin SEFUKU. The priests themselves were burning bricks, for carrying the bricks they were paying money or they were carried by the catechumens. The bricklayers were paid between 15 and 40 RWFs according to the level of the builder.
In constructing the foundation, Father Stephen BETTENTRUP had planned two rooms for the chapel and when Father Anthony JANSSENS took over responsibility for this construction, he removed those two rooms. That removal was not well welcomed by Father Stephen BETTENTRUP. When he came back from Europe, the church was over and he said that the church had been made small. In spite of that, he continued preparations for the inauguration of the new church. Using the planks of wood from the forest of Nyungwe, he made the doors and installed the seats in the church, and he built the altar. The church was inaugurated on March 1st, 1964 by Right Reverend Joseph SIBOMANA, Bishop of Nyundo Diocese assisted by Right Reverend John Baptist GAHAMANYI, Bishop of Butare Diocese. It was dedicated to the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church.
- On that great day, Father Stephen BETTENTRUP was made parish priest of Mushubi Parish. The neighbouring parishes of Mushubi were:
- In the South, Mushubi was neighboring Cyanika Parish; the boundary was Rukarara River;
- In the East, there was Kaduha Parish; the boundary was Rurongora River;
- In the North, there was Mukungu Parish in the Diocese of Nyundo; the boundary was Mbirurume River;
- In the West, there was Nyamasheke Parish in the Diocese of Nyundo (today in Diocese of Cyangugu); the boundary was the forest of Nyungwe.
In 1965, Mr Joachim KONIECZNYONIECZNY, who was the financial administrator of Butare Diocese since 1963, was sent to Mushubi with a view to helping Father Stephen BETTENTRUP in building the house for the priests. The works of construction had become fast thanks to the gift of a car received in September 1965, and a trailer known as “Mpa ndore” (meaning give me so that I may see) bought in Nyamasheke. That trailer was carrying all tools of construction. In the late 1966, German Missionsrat gave a donation of 5,000 Deutschmark (5000 DM) in order to channel water to the buildings of Mushubi Parish, to the office of Muko District and to the Health Centre of Mushubi. Since February 1st, 1967 Mr Ervin SCHNEIDER, a civil engineer managed to canalize water to Mushubi Parish and its surroundings till the late of June 1967.
On 1st October 1969, Father Vogt from Gakoma Parish was appointed as assistant priest in Mushubi Parish. In that period, Mushubi Parish received a donation of a church bell of 450 kilograms made in Germany, known under the name Raphaël. That church bell rang for the first time on the solemnity of Ascension in 1969. Since November 1970, a grinder of the parish started grinding the crops of the people from Bunyambiriri region and a part of Kibuye.
On 27th October 1971, the parish priest organized a feast in order to thank all people who contributed to the building of the priests’house. Thus, 27 workers were invited and at 10.00 am of that day a thanksgiving mass was celebrated. After the mass, Father Stephen BETTENTRUP blessed the house and a dinner was offered in the parish hall where various local dances were exhibited.
In 1972, the priests began to prepare a plot for the church in Bishyiga. Before, the christians from that side were gathering at a school of catechumenate in Gifurwe. Father Matthias BETZ in collaboration with the pastoral committee of the parish contributed a lot to the construction of the church of Bishyiga in 1977. On 31st December 1972, Father Stephen BETTENTRUP got a letter from Germany saying that there were two sisters who longed to come to Rwanda in 1973 and both to be settled at Mushubi. Those sisters were Sister Milgitha and Sister Ignatis. They arrived at Mushubi on September 5th, 1973. After a short while, they went to settle in Kaduha.
Since its foundation, Mushubi Parish has continued to develop works that contribute to improving the spiritual well-being, social and economic life of the people. The roads and schools were built; the bridges like Rwondo, Rukarara and Rurongora were built in 1973. From 1973 till 1976, Father Stephen BETTENTRUP continued to be involved in development of the region. In 1976, he returned to Europe, and on February 21st, 1976, Father FRANZEN took over from him. The latter was assisted by Father Noël KIROMBA who arrived at Mushubi on October 19th, 1976. He was the first Rwandan priest to settle at Mushubi Parish.
3. MUSHUBI PARISH AFTER THE LEADERSHIP OF FATHER STEPHEN BETTENTRUP AND JOACHIM (1976-1994)
On 30th December 1977, Father John NTIYAMIRA was appointed in Mushubi, taking over of Father FRANZEN. He became the first Rwandan parish priest of Mushubi Parish. Since that time till now, Mushubi Parish is run by the Rwandan priests.
From 1981 to 1983, Mushubi Parish was under the pastoral care of Father Francis MUNYENGABE, Father Augustine MASHYENDERI and Father Venuste LINGUYENEZA. Those priests taught to their Christians how to be self-reliant because the missionaries who were rich had quitted Mushubi. Those indigenous priests asked the christians to seek capacities in themselves so that they might construct their own churches without waiting the donations from abroad.
On 29th November 1979, Father John NTIYAMIRA laid a cornerstone for the construction of a church at Buteteri. The land was given by Mr Raphael NTURO, the paternal uncle of the late Bishop John Baptist GAHAMANYI. In 1980, the plot was made low. In 1982, Buteteri received a donation from Father Modeste MUNGWARAREBA native of that place. Thanks to that donation, the christians managed to finish the church of Buteteri. At that time the christians of Tabire were not asleep. Backed by Father Fidèle NYAMINANI, they managed to build their own church and it was completed in 1986. Since that time, Buteteri and Tabire became outstations of Mushubi Parish and they were given catechists, and masses were celebrated in those outstations on sundays and feasts.
On 20th March 1984, Bishop John Baptist GAHAMANYI paid a pastoral visit to Mushubi Parish and had meeting with priests, a pastoral committee of the parish, the representatives of Basic Ecclesial Communities, the catechists and the representatives of the Movements of Catholic Action. In this meeting, the bishop declared officially the establishment of the six outstations constituting Mushubi Parish: Mushubi, Bishyiga, Buteteri, Tabire, Gatare and Kizimyamuriro. On the same day he went to Gatare in order to see the plot for the construction of Gatare Church.
On 10th October 1984, Mushubi had a new team of priests: Father Fidèle NYAMINANI and Father Emmanuel TWAGIRAYEZU, and they were assisted in their service by Mr Filipini GINO who was the bursar.
As their predecessors, the new team faced the big challenge of the lack of the christians’ commitment in all pastoral domains: catechesis, liturgy, catholic action movements and basic ecclesial communities (BECs). The priests had been astonished by a small number of people attending the Sunday masses: at least 25 faithful participating in the second mass. Consequently the priests decided to omit the second Sunday mass. During that period, the parish was also facing a serious economic crisis. To deal with those two big challenges, the priests endeavored to train frequently the BECs members and the catechists, to stay in the outstations for some days, to build a big store for holding some subsistence crops in order to foster the welfare of the local inhabitants. They also sensitized the Christians to give the Church Annual Dues.
During that period, many other things had been done: the renovation of the church roof in replacing tiles with iron sheets, the dislocation of the altar from the side to the middle of the church, the improvement of the liturgical hymns, the building of the big hall of the parish commonly known as “centre culturel”, the laying of a big crucifix showing the way to the parish headquarters at Mushubi trade centre and the livestock farming at the parish.
On 8th August 1988, Father Canisius MULINZI and Father Vito MISURACA were sent to Mushubi. The latter was in charge in a special way of the construction of the church of Gatare and a covent of the Sisters of Divine Zeal (Sœurs Filles du Divin Zèle).
In 1992, the Gikongoro Diocese was created from Butare Diocese and Late His Excellency Agustine MISAGO became his first bishop. Since that time Mushubi became part of the newly created diocese of Gikongoro. Within that year a new parish of Gatare which was earlier an outstation of Mushubi Parish since 1984 was created. It covered, for the most part, Nyungwe forest.
As elsewhere in the country, the Genocide of 1994 against the Tutsi did not spare Mushubi Parish. Before the genocide, the parish was run by Father Emmanuel TUBANE who was the parish priest, Father John Mary Vianney KUMUYANGE, the assistant priest, and the seminarian John Bosco GAKWISI who was on his year pastoral experience; there was also the seminarian Anthony RUGAMBARARA from Gatagara parish who had come to visit his colleague John Bosco GAKWISI. The house of the priests was the first to be attacked by the killers. The seminarian Anthony RUGAMBARARA was killed at Mushubi on April 7th, 1994. Other victims killed within the parish compound on that day are Michael GACENDERI, his wife Concessa MUKAMUSONI, his son Leo GACENDERI NDAHIRO, John Baptist KAGERUKA and Felicitas MUREBWAYIRE. The seminarian John Bosco Gakwisi and Father John Mary Vianney KUMUYANGE hardly managed to esacape from the killings but Father KUMUYANGE had been brutally beaten. And Father Emmanuel TUBANE managed to survive the genocide of 1994 because he was not at Mushubi at that time. The priests were shocked at the behaviour of people they had trusted and had thought of as ‘good christians”. It seriously hurt to see the christians betraying their pastors, killing their brothers and sisters, destroying the infrastructures, plundering Church’s property. The parish was totally plundered by killers.
4. MUSHUBI PARISH AFTER THE GENOCIDE AGAINST THE TUTSI (1994-2014)
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The aftermath of the Genocide against the Tutsi was a very difficult period. Mushubi parish lost everything, people, goods, destroyed structures… Many people were desperate, traumatized and destitute. From 1994, Mushubi Parish had to begin functioning without a resident priest for four years. Father Joseph BILLAUD was used to go to Mushubi for only mass and administration of the sacraments. On 12th July 1998, the Bishop Augustine MISAGO sent to Mushubi Deacon Ignatius MBONEYABO, the seminarian Egide DUSABEYEZU, and the seminarian Lambert ULINZWENIMANA for their holidays of three months. At that time, it was not easy and normal that the seminarians stay alone in a parish without a priest at their side; but it happened and it was well welcomed by the christians of Mushubi. The latter were delighted to see the house of priests being settled again.
After the Genocide, the parish expressed its gratitude to a certain Cyprian KABERUKA who worked for the parish since its foundation in carrying the mail bag from Mushubi to Gikongoro and being his night watchman by the end. He was particularly thanked for having collected the parish furniture remained higgled-piggled after the looting of the parish.
In 2002, a new era began – the priests started to resettle in Mushubi. They tried to renovate the houses of residence; the church of Mushubi was paved with concrete, the forests were harvested, the land was recultivated, the cattle farming were reintroduced, and all the necessaries for the parish life were bought again because many were sacked during the genocide of 1994. The priests tried to wake the christianity and the participation. Due to the high participation of the faithful in the mass on the solemnities and feasts, a podium was erected in the garden of the parish; and it was to be used for masses and other gatherings of many people like meetings and leisure activities. The idea of building that podium was put into practice by Father John Mary Vianney UWIZEYEYEZU who was the parish priest at that time.
From 2002, Father Damian YIRIRWAHANDI was appointed parish priest of Mushubi Parish. Assisted in his service by different assistant priests; he played a crucial role in developing the parish. He brought many new and wonderful changes. Under his pastorship, some churches were renovated (Musaraba, Kizimyamuriro, Rugazi and Tabire); the church of Mushubi was closed by metallic doors, the podium was very solidly built in 2004, the number of the Basic Ecclesial Communities increased; in some outstations, the number of the Basic Ecclesial Communities doubled; for instance in Mushubi outstation, the number varied from 32 to 60; some Basic Ecclesial Communities built their own schools for catechumenate; the number of the catechumens increased; the schools were renovated; for example Saint-Stephen School of Mushubi (today Groupe Scolaire de Mushubi), others were built (the primary schools of Nyagisumo and Bushigishigi), the twinning between Mushubi Parish and Saint-Mary Parish of Bonn became strong, and from that twinning the association “Mamans catholiques” was born in Mushubi. In the domain of self-reliance, the priests developed agriculture and cattle farming. The water pump which was damaged in the genocide of 1994 was repaired.
In 2008, Bishyiga was created parish. In 2012 a chapel of the Holy Virgin was built in memory of Mary Clare MUKANGANGO, one of the three visionaries of Kibeho, native of Mushubi. The chapel had been built by funds from Mary Clare’s friends living in Belgium and is located near Saint Stephen School were Mary Clare had been pupil and teacher.
In September 2012 Father John of God HAGUMAMAHORO took over from Father Damian YIRIRWAHANDI as the new parish priest. The latter came together with Father Prosper NTIGURIRWA as assistant priest. The following year, Father John Claude KAMARAMPAKA was appointed at Mushubi as the new assistant priest to replace Father Prosper NTIGURIRWA.
The history of Mater Ecclesiae Church in Mushubi is rich in people, in pride, in tradition, and in devotion. Mushubi Parish created from Kaduha Parish in 1964 is one of the twelve parishes of Gikongoro Diocese. Since its inception, a lot has been done: the Gospel of Christ has been proclaimed, the number of christians has increased, the churches have been built, and the infrastructures have been put in place. After creating Gatare and Bishyiga parishes, Mushubi Parish is presently constituted by four outstations: Mushubi, Buteteri, Musaraba and Tabire. Those outstations are constituted by 116 Basic Ecclesial Communities. Mushubi Parish is a family blessed with devout parishioners whose participation in the various activities reflects their deep commitment to the church and to parish life.
We cannot conclude without extending our cordial thanks. With deep gratitude, we thank the Almighty God who has graciously blessed and helped the parishioners of Mushubi to bring this golden jubilee to its celebration. To Him be highest glory and praise for ever. Unreserved recognition is due to the benefactors mainly from Saint Peter Parish of Bonn in Germany for the benevolence and support in the preparation of this great event. To each and everyone, your contribution to the making of this great event will be remembered. May God bless you and His face shine upon you!
Blessed Mary, Holy Mother of the Church, pray for us