Today is Sea Sunday when we pray for all who live and work at Sea and remember also the work of the Apostleship of the Sea, the official maritime welfare agency of the Catholic Church.
Many seafarers are Catholics, coming from the Philippines, India and Poland, so a key part of Apostleship of the Sea’s work is to provide spiritual support; helping them to get to Mass or praying with them in times of difficulty.
Another important part of the Apostleship’s work is giving simple, practical help to all seafarers, regardless of religion. For instance, it recently had to step in and help a Russian crew of a container ship. The crew had not been paid their wages for the previous few months. The ship was in a poor state of repair and was detained by the UK Maritime and Coastguard agency at Chatham in Kent after developing engine trouble. The Apostleship of the Sea provided the seafarers with practical and pastoral support, including buying essential provisions.
Usually a port chaplain’s work is fairly straightforward, like making sure seafarers have the correct SIM cards for their mobile phones, so they can make contact with their families back home. (Seafarers from Third World countries often spend 11 months away from their families) Sometimes, however, the work is more demanding as recently, finding accommodation for two shipwrecked crew members and comforting a deeply disturbed crew of another ship, one of who’s members had suddenly died far from home.
Our daily life depends on the maritime industry and the sea. 90% of world trade is transported by sea. Around the world, nearly 1.2 million seafarers, many from developing nations, work on board 50,000 merchant ships carrying food, clothing, furniture, petrol and many other products. Working conditions are very difficult, as seafarers often work long shifts in extreme weather conditions, sometimes experiencing pirate attacks. It is the most unregulated and dangerous industry in the world.
The Apostleship of the Sea is the Catholic Church’s official outreach to seafarers and fishermen, through port chaplains, ship visitors and cruise chaplains. They rely almost entirely on the support of Catholic parishes and their generosity to continue this vital work.
Today’s collection is your opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of seafarers.
Please also keep Apostleship of the Sea in your prayers.