Rwanda immigrants prepare for first Thanksgiving

Corenta Mukantamati uprooted herself and her daughter from war-torn Rwanda 13 years ago, moving from country to country in Africa. Finally, she was granted permission to immigrate to the United States last December.

This month, Ms. Mukantamati will offer thanksgiving during a truly American holiday in her new home in Baltimore.

It will be the first time this St. Matthew, Northwood, parishioner will participate in American Thanksgiving festivities, but Ms. Mukantamati said she bid thanksgiving the moment she and her daughter arrived in Baltimore.

The 53-year-old West Baltimore resident said she is just starting to learn about the Thanksgiving holiday in English class and is looking for the right venue to celebrate the occasion.

“Maybe I will just stay home with my daughter and we’ll honor it here,” Ms. Mukantamati said. “Maybe we will give thanks somewhere else. I know we are grateful to be here.”

Ms. Mukantamati left Rwanda in 1994 for the Congo to escape the rigors of war, and moved to several other African nations over the years, waiting for a chance to begin a new life in the U.S. with her 24-year-old daughter, Aida Nekure, who is developmentally disabled.

Though Ms. Mukantamati speaks French and her native language, Kinrwanda, her English is limited. She takes English classes, which helps in her job at St. Peter Claver, Baltimore.

Having found comfort at St. Matthew where she worships with immigrants from other African countries, Ms. Mukantamati is enjoying learning the customs of her adopted country and said Thanksgiving sounds like a wonderful opportunity to express her gratitude in celebrating nearly a year in Baltimore.

“In Rwanda, we celebrate at a festival every year, but we have no day of thanks,” Ms. Mukantamati said. “My religion tells me to give thanks. This will be a special day for me and my daughter.”

Catholic Review

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.