EUROPESURVIVE-MIVA carries on an Oblate’s dream
Oblate Connections, a revue of the Oblates’ Anglo-Irish Province, published an article about the origin of MIVA (Missionary Vehicle Association) founded exactly 90 years ago, in 1927, by the late Fr. Paul SCHULTE (1896-1975). What follows are excerpts from that article, written by Theresa Codd of SURVIVE-MIVA, located in Liverpool, England.
A German Oblate priest, Fr. Paul Schulte O.M.I. (1896-1975), who became known as ‘The Flying Priest’, has the honour of being the first person to celebrate Mass in the air! This first aerial Mass … took place on 6th May 1936 onboard the giant Zeppelin airship LZ 129 Hindenburg…
Fr. Schulte’s life was full of adventure and reads like a story from the Boys’ Own magazine! He was training for the priesthood when World War I started and he was conscripted to serve in the Prussian 4th Guard Grenadier Regiment. After two and a half years in this regiment he was wounded and, after recovering from his injuries, he joined the Air Force, trained as a pilot, and served in Palestine. After the war Fr. Schulte returned to his studies and was ordained an Oblate Priest in 1922. His first posting was to South Africa.
On 6th May 1936 onboard the giant Zeppelin airship LZ 129 Hindenburg...
In 1925 a tragic event inspired Fr. Schulte to found an organisation that is still in operation today, namely MIVA, which stands for ‘Missionalium Vehiculorum Associatio’ (Missionary Vehicle Association). It was in June of 1925, in Namibia, that a childhood friend of Fr. Schulte, Fr. Otto FUHRMANN, became ill with pneumonia complicated by malaria. In an attempt to get medical treatment Fr. Fuhrmann travelled for five days, passing through the desert, until he finally reached the hospital of the Protestant Finnish mission in Owamboland. However, the delay in getting treatment was fatal and Fr. Fuhrmann died on 23rd June. The loss of his friend, when swift transport to a medical facility could have saved him, led Fr. Schulte to found MIVA in 1927 with the aim of providing modern vehicles for missionaries, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The motto of the organisation was Obviam Christo terra marique et in aera ("Toward Christ by land and sea and in the air”).
To get his scheme off the ground Fr. Schulte needed to gather support and funds and he received permission to return to Germany to promote his cause. On his way home he visited Pope Pius XI who approved his plans. …
Fr. Schulte was next assigned to a parish in Northern Canada and he set about bringing medical aid and supplies by plane to remote Oblate missions, particularly north of the Arctic Circle. In August 1938, hearing that fellow Oblate, Fr. Julien Cochard, who was based in Arctic Bay, the most northerly Catholic mission in the world, was seriously ill with double pneumonia he mounted a 2,200 mile medical evacuation. In his Stinson Reliant floatplane Fr. Schulte flew through storm force winds and thick fog in order to rescue Fr. Cochard, and received a special blessing from Pope Pius XI for his services. Fr. Schulte attributed the success of this heroic mercy flight to Our Lady of the Snows and, according to Fr. Peter MINWEGEN’S (†1977) memoir "when he was afraid of an imminent crash during a snowstorm he promised our Lady to spread her devotion under that title if she came to his aid and saved him in this emergency.”
After his time in Canada Fr. Schulte was transferred to St. Henry’s Seminary in Belleville, Illinois where, during World War II, because he was German, he came under suspicion of being a spy and the authorities ordered him not to travel but to remain in Belleville, where he was kept under F.B.I. surveillance. Fr. Schulte now set about spreading devotion to Our Lady of the Snows and, in the early 1940s, he commissioned the artist John Watson Davis (1870-1959) to paint a picture of Our Lady under this title. The painting, which now hangs in the North American National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, depicts a missionary and an aeroplane on a sick call to an Inuit mission with Our Lady appearing surrounded by rays of the Northern Lights.
After the war, Fr. Schulte continued his work for MIVA until his death in Swakopmund, Namibia, in 1975. He is buried beside his boyhood friend, Father Otto Fuhrmann. Today Fr. Schulte’s foundation, MIVA, continues to support the Church’s mission of spreading the Good News, through the provision of essential transport. There are ‘MIVAs’ in Austria, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia, Croatia, and in Great Britain (SURVIVE-MIVA). SURVIVE-MIVA was founded in 1974 and has funded over 5,000 modes of transport over the last 42 years, thanks to the generosity of the Association’s supporters. In 2015 alone the charity supplied 82 modes of transport (15 community health outreach vehicles, 37 motorbikes/ mopeds, and 30 bicycles) to 10 countries. (www.survive-miva.org)
It was very cold in Kyiv on the 6th of January: -15C. But the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish organized a Christmas Vigil in the parish center for about 400 elderly, homeless people of Kyiv, people who are forced to beg. (Eastern Rite Christians celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January.)
This was not an everyday activity, but a feast around the table with old friends. The Oblates were happy that on that extremely cold day, the poor came together and were warm and safe. Through this action, the Oblates wanted to remind everyone that when it is cold, one should pay attention to those who live on the streets. Even sharing with about 500 poor a simple bowl of soup twice a week helps them to stay awake in the cold and to save their lives when it is –15C outdoors.
The table was beautifully decorated. According to the Christmas Eve tradition, there were 12 homemade food dishes prepared. Thus, the poor could feel themselves at home, a place which they had suddenly lost due to the war in the eastern part of Ukraine. Celebrating with the poor were the Apostolic Nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti; the President of Caritas Ukraine, Fr. Petro Zharkovsky; the Superior of the Oblate Delegation, Fr. Pavlo VYSHKOVSKYI and the Oblates of the media community together with Brother Sebastian JANKOWSKI who takes care of the poor every day.
The poor people greeted the Apostolic Nuncio and told him how much good they receive from God through the Missionary Oblates who have been engaged with them for the past 4 years. The Nuncio sincerely thanked the Missionary Oblates for their service in favor of the poor and wished that the poor might feel on this holy night the love of God who never leaves them alone, even on a cold evening, when we remember his birth.
To prepare a great feast like this, the help of many people was needed: the volunteers who are regularly helping the Missionary Oblates, as well as the donors from the other Oblate Units. When we missionaries lack money in order to feed the poor weekly, we stand in front of the church begging, exactly like our poor friends do. So we sincerely thank each and everybody who helps us!
Life is the most precious gift we hold in our hands. That is why, when we meet people who put that gift in second place, leaving first place to their Christian faith, we cannot remain indifferent. But what happens when those people are of our own flesh and blood? What happens when the Martyrs are members of our own family?
On the weekend of 16-18 December, in Pozuelo de Alarcón, a very touching gathering took place. Family members of the Spanish Oblate Martyrs and the Oblates shared these days that were loaded with emotion, faith and gratitude. The gathering, which was called "Keeping the memory of the Martyrs,” touched many a heart.
There were various objectives:
1. To bring together family members closely linked to the Oblate Martyrs.
2. To share experiences, feelings, information and objects related to the person of the Martyrs.
3. To gather firsthand testimonies of those close to the Martyrs in view of a documentary about the story of the Martyrs.
Judging from what was shared at the end of the meeting, where one could sense a unique joy, these objectives have been by and large achieved.
There were many moments to be highlighted: it was the first gathering for getting to know others who are united by the blood of the martyrdom of their loved ones; the pilgrimage to the House of the Martyrs; listening in small groups to the relatives’ story of veneration of their family martyrs; getting to know and celebrating the Eucharist in the big cemetery of martyrs in Paracuellos del Jarama; the exchange of material and information, various reports and moments shared in a simple and friendly way.
There should be special mention of the participation in the gathering of the Superior General of the Congregation, Fr. Louis LOUGEN, and two members of the General Administration, Frs. Cornelius NGOKA and Warren BROWN. It was a precious and important gesture that showed that the Oblates want to be with the families of the Martyrs from the "very heart of the Congregation.”
One can gather many conclusions from those days. Fr. David LÓPEZ summed them up: "The gift of the Martyrs has become a responsibility for us, family members and Oblates. We must make known the beauty of the witness of the Oblate Martyrs and of the layman, the father of a family, Cándido Castán.”
For that and for all that was experienced in those days, we must proclaim: "Praised be Jesus Christ and Mary Immaculate! Blessed Francesco Esteban and his companion martyrs, pray for us!” (http://nosotrosomi.blogspot.com.es/)