Fr Michael Schultheis SJ (1932 – 2017)
(For thanksgiving mass and memorial fund information, see below.)
Fr Michael Schultheis died in his sleep on 14 April 2017, in Monrovia, Liberia. A Jesuit from the Oregon Jesuit Province in the USA, Fr Schultheis had recently established new roots in Liberia, where at 85 he went to work with the Kofi Annan Institute for Conflict Transformation and to establish a Catholic university.
Fr Mike had over 40 years of experience working in Africa. He started as the director of Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Africa. He then pioneered MOLU, the Mozambique Open-learning Unit, a distance-learning program for Mozambique refugees which won international recognition. He then went on to set up a number of universities in Africa, the Catholic University of Mozambique, the Catholic University of Ghana and South Sudan. Fr Schultheis will also be remembered for his contribution developing St Augustine University in Tanzania and the Jesuit University in Nigeria.
Fr Schultheis worked on building higher education curriculum, research capacity, and infrastructure building and restoration to address severe food security issues in post-conflict South Sudan. He was a member of the American Economic Association and the African Studies Association.
He studied theology and philosophy at Gonzaga University in 1958 and obtained a master’s degree at St Mary University of Minnesota, USA, in 1966. He obtained his PhD on economics with an emphasis on international agricultural development from Cornell University.
The Vice Chancellor of Catholic University of South Sudan Fr Mathew Pagan, described Fr. Schultheis as a “veteran educator” with great sense of compassion for African youth. In a 2009 interview about his work building higher education in South Sudan, Fr Schultheis said:
“We want to train students to be rigorous, to do analytical work and to really contribute to the development of the future of the Sudan.… We look to train a generation of men and women who are competent technically but also are committed in terms of values. And part of the values has to do with the values of Catholic social thought.… the hope is that what is born will become an active and a vigorous young institution that offers great hope for all of Sudan.”
Many Canadians are no strangers to Fr Schultheis’ work and dedication. He studied theology at Regis College in the early ’60s and at that time made many close Canadian friends with whom he remained in close contact over the years and who have generously supported the many initiatives he was involved with in Africa, including a fundraising concert in support of the Catholic University in South Sudan.
He visited the CJI office many times and kept in touch regularly, the last time at the beginning of March from Liberia. His messages were always full of life, excitement for his new projects, political commentary and an update on the latest sports scores. He will be missed.
Fr. Schultheis’ tight network of friends in Canada would like to honour his life with a thanksgiving mass on 20 June 2017 at St Jude’s Parish — Weston; 3265 Weston Road, Weston, ON, M9M 2T9, at 7PM. All are welcome!
Fr Schultheis was a pioneer in the field of education and service of refugees. While director of JRS East Africa, he started a higher education program for refugees. Canadian Jesuits International has created a fund in his memory, to support the work of the JRS’s Global Education Initiative. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) has historically seen education as a key contribution to the needs and hopes of refugees. Implementing the Global Education Initiative will enable our partner JRS to meet the goal of supporting the education of 100,000 additional refugees and displaced people each year.
To donate in Fr. Schultheis’ memory, please call 416 465 1825 / toll-free (Canada & USA) 1(800)448-2148. Alternatively, you can donate online or via post to: Canadian Jesuits International, 70 Saint Mary Street, Toronto ON, Canada M5S 1J3.