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Women’s conference to feature talks by Rwanda survivor, others
archived from: 2011-03-03
by: Pittsburgh Catholic Staff Report

Day of spiritual enrichment set for Oct. 22

Immaculee Ilibagiza, who survived the Rwandan genocide of 1994 and wrote a book about the tragedy, will visit Pittsburgh to speak at a first-of-its-kind conference for women on Oct. 22.

She will give the keynote address at the “Catholic Women’s Conference: A Caring Quilt,” a day of spiritual enrichment sponsored by the diocese at the Marriott City Center in Pittsburgh’s Uptown neighborhood.

Bishop David Zubik will offer the day’s concluding Mass at 2 p.m. The conference, open to all women of the diocese, will include five workshops, plus lunch.

“There are a lot of different dimensions to how Catholic women care for others,” said Dr. Arlene McGannon, diocesan chancellor, who is serving as chairwoman of the planning committee for the event. The conference will study those areas.

Topics and speakers for the day’s workshops will include:

• “Caregiving in Faith: A Woman’s Role in Caregiving” by Jennifer Antkowiak.

• “Caring for One’s Marriage in Faith” with Kathleen Zamperini, a marriage counselor with Catholic Charities, as moderator, and a panel including Megan Vargo, Rita Lampe and Ruth Darragh.

• “Caring for Our Selves in Faith” by Maureen Crossen, a Carlow University professor.

• “Caring for Our World in Faith” by Helene Paharik, director of the diocesan Department for Human Dignity.

• “Caring for the Church Alive! in Faith” by Mary Ann Gubish, director of the diocesan Department for Envisioning Ministry.

The conference may also include a display of quilts created by an area quilters’ guild.

Ilibagiza attributes her survival in the genocide, which took the lives of some 1 million of her countrymen, to prayer, her faith and specifically to the rosary her devout Catholic father gave her.

She details the trauma in her best-selling book, “Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust,” which has been translated into 15 languages. She has spoken often on the tragedy and has been awarded honorary degrees. Ilibagiza was among eight women who for 91 days during the rampage huddled together in the bathroom of their pastor’s house.

The daughter of two teachers who stressed the value of education, during her confinement Ilibagiza taught herself English, using just the Bible and a dictionary.

Over the course of that confinement the 22-year-old university student went from weighing 115 pounds down to 65. She emerged to find most of her family murdered.

Her book details her journey to overcoming her anger and bitterness, crediting prayer as the reason she was able to overcome those emotions and find a new life.

In freedom, she found a job with the United Nations, and in 1998 immigrated to the United States with her new husband. The couple have two children and Ilibagiza continues to work at the U.N. while also establishing a foundation to aid Rwandan survivors.

The daughter of two teachers who stressed the value of education, during her confinement Ilibagiza taught herself English, using just the Bible and a dictionary.




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