06 July 2018
'Without seafarers, half the world would starve while the other half would freeze'
This weekend churches all over Great Britain and the world will mark Sea Sunday – a day to remember seafarers and to pray for them, their families and for all who support them.
Seafarers work in the margins of society, and live a semi-nomadic life that’s hidden from view. Many ports are far from towns and cities, and they exist behind security fences.
Working at sea might sound romantic, but the reality is very different. Seafarers can go weeks without having any contact with their families back home.
This means they not only can miss the birth of a child or other significant family moments, but they can also experience anxiety over relationships.
The turnaround time for ships is quick and the shifts continue when a vessel is in port, so the opportunity for any kind of change of scenery or change in general is very small. In some cases, the ship can feel like a prison.
One of Apostleship of the Sea’s port chaplains, Fr Colum Kelly, often reminds us that we’re dealing with an ‘invisible world’ in our ministry with seafarers. Nobody goes on to docks to meet seafarers. Nobody knows how seafarers live or ply their trade. Many of them are away from home for nine months, 12 months at a time.
Do we ever really stop and think about the importance of what they do? Just look around your home. Look at your television, your computers, your fridges, your cars, the light switches that keep your lights on - all this is brought to us by seafarers.
And yet few of us know anything about their lives. There is a saying which goes "without seafarers, half the world would starve while the other half would freeze."
That’s why Sea Sunday is so important because it reminds us of the vital contribution seafarers make.
This weekend, many churches will take up a second collection at Mass which goes toward the Apostleship of the Sea’s ministry supporting seafarers’ spiritual and practical needs.
In Great Britain, Apostleship of the Sea has 20 chaplains and more than 100 volunteer ship visitors serving 61 ports. They go to the docks, go on board ships and meet seafarers, offering friendship, care and hospitality.
This might mean providing mobile phone top-up cards or access to the internet (most ships don’t have this but if they do it can be quite limited), arranging transport to local shops, or for a priest to celebrate Mass on board a vessel.
Some crew members also struggle with loneliness and isolation at sea, so having someone to talk to about what they are feeling can be of enormous help.
So please do give generously if your parish is holding a second collection for Apostleship of the Sea this weekend.
We also ask you to keep seafarers in prayer; many seafarers come from predominantly Catholic countries such as the Philippines, Goa in India and Poland, and their faith means a lot to them.
Knowing that there are people out there praying for them and their families gives them encouragement to do one of the most difficult and important jobs in the world.
We have so much to thank seafarers for and Sea Sunday is a special day when we can all show we care. So please support your church’s Sea Sunday appeal this weekend and make a difference to the lives of seafarers and their families. Let them know they’re not forgotten!
By Martin Foley, Apostleship of the Sea National Director. Apostleship of the Sea is the Catholic Church’s maritime agency that provides pastoral and practical support to seafarers, and a listening ear. To find out more about Sea Sunday visit https://www.apostleshipofthesea.org.uk/about-sea-sunday
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