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Immaculee Ilibagiza leads a Rwandan song and dance at a March 24-25 retreat sponsored by Holy Family Parish in Lindsay.

Retreat draws 400 people to Lindsay

More than 400 people came from across Nebraska and at least four other states to hear a message of forgiveness through the power of prayer during a March 24-25 retreat sponsored by Holy Family Parish in Lindsay.

Immaculee Ilibagiza – a survivor of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda – shared her story of hope in the face of tragedy.

Hiding from the violence for 91 days with seven other women in a small bathroom, Ilibagiza emerged to find most of her family had been killed, but through faith and prayer, she learned to forgive the perpetrators.

"She spoke so humbly and eloquently," said Jane Kurtenbach, a member of Holy Family Parish who helped organize the retreat. "She reminded us that we are all sons and daughters of God and that forgiveness is the key to freedom."

"Her message of reconciliation and forgiveness touched a lot of people’s hearts," said Father James Novotny, pastor. "I heard confessions for three solid hours. It’s been a long time since I’ve done that.

"I believe reconciliation is one of the most important sacraments, and her message was pretty strong that we need reconciliation, and people really responded."

Father Rodney Kneifl, pastor of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Parish in Clarkson and St. Mary Parish in Leigh, heard confessions for two hours.

Ilibagiza talked about her experiences, and led a flower procession to a statue of the Blessed Mother, with people carrying a flower to the altar with a prayer petition in mind.

She also taught about and led people in the Seven Sorrows Rosary, a variation of the traditional rosary that includes praying seven Hail Marys seven times, while meditating on Mary’s seven sorrows.

The retreat also included a question-and-answer session and a Rwandan song and dance.

In addition to Holy Family parishioners, people came from surrounding parishes, other Nebraska dioceses and as far away as Ohio, Minnesota, Kansas and South Dakota, said Sherry Lindhorst, a Holy Family parishioner who also helped organize the event.

"So many people were touched by her message and felt their own healing," she said.

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