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Transporting Missionaries for 90 Years

 Abril Villarreal-Medina
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In 1927, Fr. Paul Schulte, O.M.I. was distressed that so many missionary activities could not take place because of a lack of transportation.  So he started an organization to solve the problem.  During the first year, he gave away 12 bicycles.

Since those humble beginnings, MIVA (Missionary Vehicle Association) has given away more than 26,000 vehicles to be used in missionary endeavors around the world.  This year, the group is celebrating its 90th Anniversary and has chapters in 13 countries.  Hundreds of busses, cars, trucks, boats, motorcycle and bicycles are given to missionaries every year through MIVA.

Father Schulte was a German Oblate known as “The Flying Priest.”   An accomplished pilot, he was assigned to work in South Africa after his ordination in 1922.  Three years later, a tragic event inspirited Fr. Schulte to create MIVA.

In Namibia a childhood friend of Fr. Schulte, Fr. Otto Fuhrmann, O.M.I. became ill with pneumonia complicated by malaria.  For five days, Fr. Fuhrmann traveled through the desert to reach a hospital.  The delay in getting treatment was fatal.

The death of his friend, when swift transport to a medical facility could have saved him, led Fr. Schulte to create MIVA, with the aim of providing modern vehicles for missionaries, especially in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  Father Schulte submitted his plans to the Vatican, and received approval from Pope Pius XI .

As he was getting MIVA off the ground, Fr. Schulte was literally himself off the ground.  He was assigned to Northern Canada and brought medical aid and supplies by plane to remote Oblate missions, particularly north of the Arctic Circle.

In 1938 he received international acclaim for his 2,200-mile medical evacuation of Fr. Julien Cochard who had double pneumonia at the most northerly Catholic mission in the world.  Father Schulte credited the success of the heroic mercy flight to Our Lady of the Snows.

Father Schulte would later transfer to St. Henry’s Seminary in Belleville, Illinois.  In addition to his work promoting MIVA, he also encouraged devotion to Our Lady of the Snows.  Today, the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville is one of the largest Marian shrines in the United States.

Father Schulte died while doing missionary work in Namibia in 1975.  He was buried beside his boyhood friend, Fr. Otto Fuhrmann, whose death led to the creation of MIVA.

Today, MIVA is preserving the legacy of Fr. Schulte by providing missionaries around the world with a vital element for their success – a means of transport.  Every day, thousands of people are being transported by these vehicles – on land, water and in the air.

Recent MIVA Projects

• A bus being used by women in 36 villages in Madurai, India for educational programs and vocational training.

• An aluminum boat for the Nukunonu Catholic Mission in Tokelau, a remote island near French Polynesia.

• Fifty bicycles for catechists at St. Patrick’s Parish in Madera, Uganda who provide pastoral care for parishioners in 50 outstations.

• A truck to provide HIV/AIDS home- based care for St. Agnes’ Mission in Zambia.

• A truck being used by a parish priest who covers a vast and remote area of the Peruvian Andes Mountains.


Original story & images provided by Mike Viola at Missionary Associates of Mary Immaculate.