Father Honoratus and Father Pascal

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 continues his work with the Missionary Cooperative Plan teaching Christians in the United States about the suffering caused by poverty in third world countries.  

Our Founder Father Pascal Bigirimana

"Lift up Their Hearts" was founded by Father Pascal Bigirimana" a survivor of and witness to the genocide of Tutsi in Burundi and Rwanda.  Father Pascal's story is profoundly sad, but it is truly testament to the endurance of the human spirit with the help of God. 

Father Pascal was born and raised in Burundi, a very small country on the southern border of Rwanda. The histories of Burundi and Rwanda are inseparable; in fact they were one country, called Rwanda-Urundi Territory until 1962 when political differences divided them. However, they continue to have strong ties. They share the same language and customs and many residents of Burundi have close relatives in Rwanda.Unfortunately, they also share the same history of ethnic hatred and oppression.

In 1993 Father Pascal witnessed firsthand the brutal genocide of Tutsis in Burundi. As a Tutsi his own life was threatened but he escaped harm as he was forewarned and hidden by friends. Unfortunately most of his family did not. He and his sister are the sole survivors of his immediate family of nine. Tragically, he lost more family and friends the following year when genocide gripped Rwanda. 

In 1996 Father Pascal moved to Rwanda where he was desperately needed as a priest. He found conditions there heartrending. The genocide had taken more than one million of the country’s eight million citizens, most of them Tutsi. The survivors were left severely traumatized and depressed. They were barely able to cope with day to day living and restoring order and rebuilding the country seemed beyond hope. Because he had also suffered an enormous loss, Father Pascal could relate to these people who had lost everything.

From that time he searched for a way to “Lift up My Heart” and “Lift up Their Hearts.” These words had special meaning to him because as a Catholic priest he used them at every mass and they reimind him of those sad times when he struggles to understand the loss of his loved ones.

While trying to help his people understand and recover from the genocide he realized that spiritual healing sometimes needs to be accompanied by physical help. Rwanda is a very poor country and its people’s nutritional, health and housing needs often go unmet. People who cannot meet their physical needs often cannot envision a future.

In 2002 Father Pascal came to the United States as a student and missionary. His hope was to raise funds for the most needy of his people in the Diocese of Butare in Rwanda. Eventually, however, he needed to broaden his mission to reach a wider audience. In January 2008 I traveled with him to Rwanda. His compassion for his country and its people, as well as the extreme poverty I witnessed compelled me to help him found “Lift up There Hearts” a nondenominational, nonprofit organization for the people of Rwanda.

In Father Pascal’s own words, “It is of no importance who they are or what their ethnic background is, the purpose of “Lift up Their Hearts” is to take God’s love to these people and lead them to Him. We want to show them the love and compassion God has for them through each of us.”

“In God I’ve found everything”

Father Pascal Bigirimana, died after a brief illness on November 11, 2012.  He will be sorely missed.

You and Lift Up Their Hearts can help Rwanda end the cycle of poverty in East Africa.
The Genocide of the Tutsis of 1994 devastated the population of Rwanda both physically and psycologically. It left the country financially bankrupt and destroyed it's primitive infrastructure.

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. .
Lift  Up Their Hearts works to aid in the recovery and stability of the nation. Our hope is that Rwanda becomes a leader in good governance and economic progress in Africa.
In 2012 Lift Up Their Hearts will begin construction of a school dedicated to teaching computer skills and  English language to young adults.  Rwanda is fast becoming a leader in Africa in communications technology.  They need citizens with computer skills and English knowledge to accomplish this goal. The internet is an important communications tool which can connect them with innovative ideas in the outside world and knowledge of the English language allows them to confer with a host of ICT experts from all over the world.

Contact Us
email us at: liftuptheirhearts@yahoo.com

Lift Up Their Hearts
P.O. Box 101
St Bonifacius, Mn. 55375