From Poland to Rwanda, With Love
By Peter Chomicki
I spent about 15 years without God in my life. For years, I was able to fulfill my ambition of being a good businessman, working as the manager of a lucrative company. I enjoyed both financial and personal success.
I worked really hard in those days. I got a lot of satisfaction out of my job. It gave me a good salary, a good family situation, as well as new friends and social contacts. Back then, I believed in myself, in my own strength and gifts. I had faith in my success, and I thought I could do everything on my own.
Eventually, I invested in a new project that brought in a lot of money. I put myself into it entirely, and, I repeat, I made a lot of money. At that time, I wanted to delve deeper into the "great mystery" of the success stories of millionaires and find out how I could reach those heights myself. I read books about what the fathers of great American fortunes had to say on the topic of economic growth and large enterprises, written by Rockefeller, Carnegie, etc.
Today, I realize that in searching for self-growth I was turning to evil powers. I have to admit that the devil helped me at times. Now I can see I was really involved in evil ways. It was a time of my life without Christ. Even though I had grown up in a Catholic family, my parents weren't able to speak in depth about their Christian beliefs, and they didn't transmit their faith in God to me. They left me totally free to make my own decisions.
So back then, I had no time for God, because in my mind, He wasn't the source of truth. This had serious consequences in my life.
At the beginning of 2008, the world was hit by a global financial crisis. I was not immune to it. That's when I turned to Mary. When I was young, until I turned 15, I participated in parish life. I made some pilgrimages from Warsaw to Czestochowa. As a child, I had a great devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, but everything quickly came to an end when I moved to Warsaw.
Since I needed significant financial help at this point, I decided to go to Czestochowa and ask Mary to help me. I remembered then that I had somebody to turn to in hard times — God. And that time, I did get help from God really quickly. A month later, I received nearly $150,000. That's when I understood that Mary had asked God to help me in my life and my future.
Over the next few months, I started growing closer to God, little by little. I decided to go to Mass and pray more often, and I noticed some changes in my life. My career still had its ups and downs. Never before had I gone through hard times like that. It was a very difficult passage in my life. During that period, the sign of the cross appeared on my horizon. I recognized that cross in my life, and, after two years, I finally accepted it.
I started to attend Sunday Mass on a regular basis, not at my parish church, but at a church nine miles from where I lived, called Our Lady of the Savior, in Warsaw. Why did I want to go there? I eventually realized that Mary herself had led me there. After praying in that church for several months, I received a great sign. My journey began with Mary — from Medjugorje to Kibeho, so to speak.
On May 2, 2010, after a few months of participating in the Mass, I suddenly decided to go to a bookstore, and I bought a book on the alleged apparitions of Medjugorje (note: the Church has not yet ruled on the authenticity of the alleged apparitions). I loved the messages it contained and studied those messages for many months. That's when I decided it was time to change my life. I wanted to leave my job and completely dedicate my life to serve God. I still hadn't figured out how, but I wanted to serve Him more.
I had two Marian projects connected to evangelization in mind. First of all, I wanted to create of a new international Marian community for children and young people, and I also had two projects of evangelization through the media. Those two projects later became two prayer intentions during my pilgrimage to Kibeho, Rwanda — site of Church approved Marian apparitions in 1981. I can see today that Mary's messages were the foundations of events that would happen to me in the future.
The next important step that I took was to make a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Gietrzwald, in the north of Poland. It's a Marian shrine I had heard about a few weeks earlier at the Church of Our Lady of the Savior during announcements after Mass. I went to that shrine at the end of August, and after the visit I went to the bookstore. I was attracted to a book titled Our Lady of Kibeho: Mary Speaks to the World from the Heart of Africa, written by Immaculée Ilibagiza. I bought the book, even though I had no intention of buying one there, just like before with Medjugorje.
During the evening of the same day, I started reading that book and it really touched my heart. I felt an impulse to answer the call of Mary, Mother of the Word of Kibeho. My first thought was to get myself to Kibeho as fast as possible — to just hop on a plane and go to Africa. The message of Our Lady of Kibeho deeply affected me. I felt Mary's closeness deep in my heart. After two weeks of non-stop thinking about Kibeho, I felt in my heart I needed to make a pilgrimage to Kibeho — on foot. From that moment a new chapter began in my life called "to God through Mary."
The following weeks were almost like before. I still had my old job, but my inner conversion progressed, and the dynamic was totally new: It had a Marian pace! This was also a time of discernment about the pilgrimage. I wondered if that invitation had really come from Mary. And only after a whole year of waiting did I receive an answer from Mary.
One day in September, I felt drawn to pray, and I went to Saint Michael the Archangel and Saint Florian Cathedral in Warsaw. Before going into the church, a woman from Africa came up to me and asked me, "Where is the parish office?" I told her, and then I asked her: "Where are you from?" She said she was from Rwanda and introduced herself as Alphonsine. I was dumbstruck, and when I went inside the church I realized that it was Sept. 15, the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Suddenly, everything started to make sense to me. It really was Mary's invitation, her real invitation! She was confirming my mission of going to Kibeho on foot.
The three months that followed my final decision were spent preparing for the pilgrimage, but in the form of carrying Jesus' cross each day. I understood now what the cross was. Mary talked about the cross in Kibeho. This step in preparing for my pilgrimage was crucial.
The Pilgrimage to Kibeho
I started my pilgrimage on Oct. 12, 2012, the opening day of the Year of Faith. It is true that I had planned to leave a few days before that, but professional reasons prevented me from leaving earlier.
I started my pilgrimage with a great sense of hope and a great trust in Jesus and Mary. A 3,700-mile adventure awaited me. I was well prepared spiritually, and I had organized the itinerary. I knew I was doing God's will.
However, there were two problems I wasn't prepared for. First, the physical demands, because I lacked time for that. The other problem was the financial aspect. The day of my departure, I had only 30 percent of the planned budget for the pilgrimage. From a human perspective, I shouldn't have set off on that pilgrimage. I couldn't just get up and go without making sure I had enough money to reach my destination. But I surrendered everything to Jesus; I offered myself to Him and gave Him everything throughout my pilgrimage.
I started my pilgrimage at the Shrine of Gietrzwald. I walked across Poland and Europe; made a stop in Medjugorje; went to Turkey where I had planned to visit Maremana in Ephesus, the place where Mary spent the last years of her earthly life. After that, I continued on my pilgrimage to the last region of Europe: the Syrian border. With Europe and Turkey combined, I had walked at least 2,350 miles on foot. Syria was off limits, so I had to fly to Addis-Abeba, Ethiopia, and continue my pilgrimage to Kibeho from there. I crossed Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, and into Rwanda.
When I started my pilgrimage, I felt strong with the trust I had in Jesus and Mary. It was that hope that led me each day towards Kibeho. I opened my heart and my soul to God's presence like never before, and asked Him each day to convert me, change my heart and my thoughts, and everything that wasn't good about me, so I could be healed and live in God. The days of my pilgrimage were a time of prayer, meditation on the Gospel, and deep reflection — in the light of the Gospel — not only on my life, but also on past events surrounding the life of my family. It was also a time of work, because a pilgrimage on foot requires a lot of physical effort, good organization and clever planning in order to complete the entire journey to Kibeho.
I can honestly say that each day was filled with God's grace and Mary's protection. When I walked, I met many people who promised to pray for me and who helped me financially. When I needed help, God always gave me a sign and a concrete form of help. Mary took good care of me so I wouldn't lack anything, in terms of money, organization, and especially concerning the spiritual necessities that mattered the most to me. In retrospect, I see that always I got the financial help I needed from different sources, and I never lacked the physical strength to walk.
The first part of my pilgrimage was quite uneventful. I walked, prayed, and meditated on the presence of Jesus in my life. In Europe, I experienced all sorts of weather. I walked in sunny autumn days and in the rain. I walked while admiring the beauty of winter, surrounded by the majesty of white snow, but also in the cold, in the splendid bright sun, and in Africa, of course, in the scorching heat.
The most important part of my pilgrimage began at the end of the European leg of the trip, when I reached Africa. It was a very fruitful time, rich in meditations on God's presence in my life. I now know that I received great gifts from God because since that time, until today, I have been able to meditate on the greatest problem in the life of human beings: sin.
I would never have thought before that one day I'd find myself meditating on the topic of sin. Yet today, my life is centered on the discernment between good and evil. My meditations were mainly about personal memories, times of great suffering in my family and the lives of others, and also the memory of some events that happened in my country, Poland, all the suffering in the world, and in Rwanda.
Through those meditations, I began to understand a brutal truth: Each evil — called sin — is often nurtured by ourselves and over a long period of time. Very often it is transmitted from parents to their children, and as a result children commit the same sins when they grow up. Because of this problem, we can see that children continue to live a bad life, a life of sin, even when they are older. This happens in many families, including Christian families, where Christ isn't accepted and professed by the whole family. In my case, and in the case of my close relatives, we were raised in the Christian tradition, but sometimes in a very superficial way.
These petty foundations of Christian life have caused a massive abandonment of the Church and the sacraments, and the consequence is that people are plunged into different forms of sin, some of them very modern and sometimes very attractive. If we spend our lives far away from God, we are unable to recognize evil when it comes our way — evil that is secretly hidden under different forms, often invisible and even looking almost innocent.
Mary said in Kibeho that faith and unbelief could come unnoticed. Looking at my own life, the life of my family, my relatives and society, I see that her message is still very relevant today. In her message of Kibeho, Mary warns us to beware, to think carefully. If we fail to build a strong relationship with God — with His grace — we can easily drift away from him.
From time to time we live under the illusion that everything is going just fine, but that isn't true. That's why I had gone through some very hard times in previous years, and experienced tragic situations in my family. There have been suicides and many conflicts. Of course, my neighbors and friends have had similar difficulties, maybe to a lesser degree than in my family, with divorce, alcoholism, drug addictions, etc. Those problems are endemic worldwide.
Satan's strategy is very simple: He will do anything to take people away from God. He gives people what they desire, and then he destroys them. His favorite tactic is to divide families. This often happens over a period of several years, and this is why the onset of the problems often goes unnoticed.
Again, we don't recognize that we accumulate sins over a period of several years, and we lead a life where God is absent and almost invisible. Without God, people can't solve the totality of their problems and difficulties.
Only Jesus, who invites us to carry His cross on which our sins are destroyed, can heal us from our problems and weaknesses. Jesus tells us what the best way is, the one that gives us a new life. He is the one who shows us the truth, because He is the Truth.
The problem of sin doesn't only affect our loved ones and us. It concerns our whole society and the whole world. Rwanda suffered a great tragedy, an incomprehensible genocide, and is an example of this.
Today, in Europe and in the world, we are reaping the fruits of lives lived without God. The consequences are causing a sort of crisis that makes our society sick. It has been going on for several years and will probably continue for a while longer. But in my opinion, the Lord wants to give us His mercy. He warns us with gentle love, and invites us to change our lives. During my frequent meditations, I noticed that Mary's messages in Kibeho spoke of these things: the cross, conversion, and a change of life.
From then on, I began to understand that Mary doesn't just want to express what the power of evil is and what its consequences are in our life. Above all, with the message of Our Lady of Kibeho, she wants me to warn people that living without God doesn't make them strong, and it doesn't give them a chance to live in the Truth, because God alone is Love and only with Him can we build a life that is true. Where God is absent, evil has strong roots, and that's where Satan does his harvest, the black harvest. This is why the message of Our Lady of Kibeho will have a lot of impact when I tell my story.
I finished my blessed pilgrimage by God's grace and thanks to Mary's protection that I felt was with me every single day. After 11 months and 3,700 miles of walking, I arrived in Kibeho, on Sept. 7, 2013, the vigil of the feast of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary.
Living in the presence of Mary and Jesus in this holy place of Kibeho, I continue to meditate on the message of Mary in the context of my pilgrimage. The message is very relevant, and many people want to hear it. I especially dedicate this testimony to Immaculée.
Imana ibahe umugisha.
God bless you.