Pope urges greater support for ministry to seafarers

Sea Sunday will be celebrated in Australia this Sunday, July 14.

In the lead-up to Sea Sunday on July 14, Pope Francis has urged chaplains and volunteers to redouble their efforts to support those working on the high seas.

The Sea Sunday Appeal offers the Church in Australia the opportunity to show its continued support for the ministry to seafarers provided by the Apostleship of the Sea and Stella Maris centres.

At a recent audience with participants in the Meeting for Chaplains and Volunteers of Stella Maris at the Vatican, Pope Francis said: “I encourage you and the chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris to redouble your efforts to confront issues that are all too often the fruit of human greed.

“Through your service, you can help restore to these persons their sense of dignity. Your presence in the ports, large and small, is already a sign of God’s fatherhood and the fact that, in his eyes, we are all children, brothers and sisters to one another,” the Holy Father said.

“As chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris, you have been entrusted with the mission of presence, bringing the Good News of the Lord Jesus to the complex and varied world of seafaring. Your daily visits to the ships enable you to encounter people in concrete situations, at times serene, at other times anxious or even deeply troubled.

“With compassion and discretion, you give them a chance to pour out their hearts. This is the first and most precious service that you provide, above all to those who have few similar opportunities. Your ministry to sailors and fishermen is above all one of listening to them and to their material and spiritual needs.”

Bishop Bosco Puthur, Bishop Promoter for the Apostleship of the Sea in Australia, said the ministry to seafarers is an area of growing importance for the Church in this country, with about 130,000 seafarers arriving at Australian ports each year.

“The Scripture verse that is central to this year’s Sea Sunday comes from Matthew (25:35), where Christ challenges us all with the words: ‘I was a stranger and you welcomed me’,” he said.

“We ask all in the Church in Australia to continue to support and grow the work of this vital ministry which serves to assist seafarers who spend many months at sea, often away from their homes and families, suffering from loneliness, from isolation and stress, from fear of pirates and harsh weather.”

To coincide with the annual Sea Sunday Appeal, Apostleship of the Sea Australia national director Roslyn Rajasingam said the ministry’s website is being redeveloped to share the purpose and work of the organisation and to gain feedback to meet current and future needs.

“We’ve redeveloped our website to be able to not only share who we are and what we do, but also to listen,” she said.

“We want to hear from people, whether young or not so young, their ideas and suggestions on how this ministry can better assist the men and women who work at sea.”

The website also provides information on how to volunteer or to assist financially. Anyone interested in helping can email or contact centre managers, coordinators or representatives listed on the “Contact Us” page.

For further information, visit the Apostleship of the Sea website. The redeveloped site is being launched on July 10.