A Rwandan couple who raised 10 children while enduring a rocky marriage and political violence that would eventually end their lives, is being considered for sainthood.
April 7 marked 25 years since the murder of Cyprien and Daphrose Rugumba who lost their lives at the start of the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The couple, whose cause for beatification was opened in September of 2015, had a rocky start.
According to the Emmanuel Community, Cyprien was once a seminarian who abandoned his plans for the priesthood because of scandals involving other seminarians. The experiences led him to not only leave the seminary, but the faith as well.
He went on to become a successful artist who worked as a poet, author and composer, but tragedy would soon rob him of his great love in life, a woman named Xaverina Mukahigiro to whom he was engaged. In 1963, Xaverina was killed along with several members of her family. In order to honor the engagement made to her family, Cyprien asked Xaverina’s cousin, Daphrosa, to marry him. Two years later the two were wed.
Daphrosa was a devout and prayerful Catholic, an aspect of her life that Cyprien disdained. This caused her great suffering but she believed in the sanctity of marriage and prayed for her husband’s conversion while raising their ten children in the faith.
In 1982, her prayers were answered when Cyprien fell gravely ill with a disease that doctors were unable to diagnose. Fearing for his life, he began to write a song about his death and while he was composing it, his heart was flooded with grace. He suddenly believed in the existence of God and felt that God was waiting for him. The experience brought about a radical conversion.
Convinced that this came about because of his wife’s prayers, he asked for her forgiveness for all the suffering he caused her. Of course, she forgave him and their marriage went through a beautiful transformation.
“Those who were around new couple were astounded by how they now radiated joy and tenderness. With this renewed joy they did not just keep it between themselves but instead they became more open to the service of others. They welcomed everyone from the rich to the humblest,” the Emmanuel Community writes.
In 1989, Cyprien and Daphrosa discovered the Emmanuel Community, a Catholic Lay International Community that brings together the faithful from all walks of life who strive for holiness and who commit themselves to actively live their faith through adoration, compassion, and evangelization.
Within a year, the couple had founded an Emmanuel Community in Rwanda and devoted themselves to the mission of growing their community in spite of the increasing political tensions in that country.
“The importance of unity in Rwanda became even more necessary as the ethnic tensions between Tutsis and Hutus rose. The Community was one of the few places that brought together members of different ethnic groups, into one fellowship centered around Christ.”
This became Cyprien’s goal, to never differentiate between Rwandans. “We have only one party, that of Jesus,” he would say.
The couple’s commitment to uniting the Tutsis and Hutus placed them at the top of the list of people to be assassinated.
On the morning of April 7, 1994, the first day of the genocide that would eventually kill a million people, the Rugumbas were murdered in their home along with six of their children. They had spent the night before praying before the Blessed Sacrament.
To this day, Cyprien’s art – his songs, dances, poems and books – are a staple in Rwandan culture and Daphrosa’s love and care for street children continues. This courageous couple, who triumphed over so many personal trials to become giants in the faith, are revered by all who knew them.
“Their lives on earth were unjustly ended by evil, but evil did not win the morning Cyprien, Daphrosa and their children died,” the Community writes. “The lives of the Rugumbas and the hope their story can bring outshines the darkness that surrounded their death. Their lives serve as a testimony that God can convert hearts like Cyprien, He answers the faithful prayers like those of Daphrosa, and the Mercy of Jesus can restore any marriage. Cyprien and Daphrosa are an example that holiness is possible, faithfulness is fruitful, and love is always victorious over evil.”
Prayer for the Beatification of Cyprien and Daphrosa Rugumba
We pray for the beatification of the servants of God Cyprien and Daphrosa. Give us to always have, like them, an incessant zeal for adoration, a heart burning of love for you and an active compassion for all who suffer.
Help us to give ourselves freely for the evangelization of the families and the poor.
In communion with Cyprien and Daphrosa, we entrust to you especially couples who experience marital difficulties and people who are struggling to forgive their enemies, and we ask you to make us instruments of peace. Through the intercession of these Servants of God, we ask you, Lord, according to Your will, the grace of ……………………… (a prayer is expressed)
Lord, grant us peace and the grace that we ask in faith. Amen
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