Retiring after transforming his Diocese
Today marks the historical event of consecrating Bishop elect Laurent Mbanda of Shyira Diocese succeeding the retiring Bishop John Rucyahana, who has been at the helm of the diocese since 1994.
Rucyahana decided to return home with his family to Rwanda from Uganda where he had earned honour as a respectable Anglican minister, and left the comfort and had to settle in Musanze, former Ruhengeri District where an insurgency was at its high.
According to different people Sunday Times talked to, the retiring Bishop of Shyira Diocese John Rucyahana is being described as a man of God, with passion to transform the society with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Bishop Nathan Gasatura of Butare Anglican Diocese, described Bishop John Rucyahana as the passionate evangelist who loves Jesus Christ and a dynamic entrepreneur who has demonstrated how the word of God becomes practical.
“He is an excellent, inspiring model in demonstrating the gospel of Jesus Christ integrated in human practical needs,” Bishop Gasatura told Sunday Times on Friday.
Rucyahana was born in northwest Rwanda, November 14, 1945 and lived in Rwanda until 1959 when he fled to Ugandan as a refugee. He is one of 13 children of John and Eerdiane Rucyahana.
At the age 14, Rucyahana’s life seemed to be hopeless when he and his family plus other Rwandans were forced to flee Rwanda during the 1959 Tutsi persecution.
He went to three primary Schools; Butete, Kinoni and Gitare in Bukamba District for his Primary Studies. He did his secondary studies in Inyemeramihigo College at Gisenyi and in Goma in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He accepted Jesus Christ at the age of 21, became a lay evangelist, and worked as a school teacher. In 1969, he got married. He has been blessed with five children plus four adopted ones.
Called to serve
Rucyahana was ordained into the Anglican Church of Uganda in 1975 and began his calling as a parish priest.
He was later appointed as an overseer of St. Paul’s Cathedral in Hoima, Uganda, where he served faithfully throughout the brutal and dangerous reign of Uganda’s violent dictator, Idi Amin.
In 1983 he was appointed archdeacon, and was responsible for overseeing many churches and pastors. The following 14 years, he was one of the potential leaders in Uganda’s Anglican Church.
In 1988, Rucyahana went to the United States for theology studies at Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania where he earned a Master of Arts degree in Religion.
When the genocide against the Tutsi erupted in 1994, Rucyahana led mission teams from Uganda to Rwanda to preach a message of healing, hope and forgiveness.
In 1997, he left his comfort and security of his Ugandan ministries, to return home hence being ordained as Anglican Bishop of the Shyira Diocese in northwest Rwanda which was the most insecure place at the time with insurgent killings and rebel activities.
Shyira Diocese included the then most insecure areas of Ruhengeri, Gisenyi and Kibuye until the genocide perpetrators were finally driven into eastern Congo in 1998.
In 1998, Bishop Rucyahana became the first African bishop to have a parish in the United States - St. Andrews Anglican Church in Little Rock, Arkansas. From that experience, the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA) was launched in 2000 under the leadership of Archbishops Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda and Yong Ping Chung of Southeast Asia.
In his life, Rucyahana pursued developmental activities basing on the development of the human race, with compassion to vulnerable groups.
He became a member on the national board of planning and Development of the Church of Uganda for 9 years and was the chairman of the project committee. He started a heifer project in Bunyoro which provided not only milk but also provided financial support to poor families.
Rucyahana is the current Chairman of the board Prison Fellowship Rwanda (PFR) with Unity and partnership with Prison Fellowship International in which he was elected as a counsellor.
Rucyahana publicly began a spiritual war fare against homosexuality which was openly unveiled in the Episcopal Church of America and protected Christians of St Andrews in the United States, who were being persecuted for their true faith.
During the 1998 Lamberth Conference he proclaimed it to all Anglican Bishops at the conference.
Thus, there is a new Christian faith community known as “Anglican Mission in the America” supported by both the Episcopal Church of Rwanda and the Episcopal church of South East Asia.
After being consecrated, Rucyahana elevated the status of the diocese both spiritually and physically.
He has contributed to infrastructural development in Shyira Diocese, by building the popular Sonrise schools and helped in renovating some old ones. Shyira hospital has been re-opened and a magnificent Cathedral has been built.
Bishop John Rucyahana is one of Rwanda’s most effective leaders – an evangelist, spiritual leader and social entrepreneur – building schools, hospitals, businesses, community centers and churches.
He serves on President Kagame’s Presidential Advisory Council and is the author of The Bishop of Rwanda: Finding Forgiveness Amidst a Pile of Bones.