Much has been written about the heroic efforts of our healthcare workers in recent months. The world has paid tribute to the courage and dedication of those working tirelessly on the frontline in hospitals, nursing homes and emergency services. Hot meals, donations and gratitude campaigns are just some of the ways the world has shown their appreciation for this courageous group of people.
Today is Sea Sunday, a day we pay tribute and encourage support for another group of frontline heroes – our seafarers. Mobile phones, clothing and computer equipment – seafarers provide us with the things that make our lives convenient and enjoyable. They live in constant fear of pirates and bad weather and often experience loneliness and isolation.
As Pope Francis pointed out in a recent announcement, COVID-19 has forced millions of seafarers to make even greater sacrifices. “Long periods spent aboard ships without being able to disembark, separation from families, friends and native countries, and fear of infection are a heavy burden to bear,” he said.
According to the UN’s labor agency, anywhere between 150,000 and 200,000 seafarers are currently stranded at sea.
Centacare’s Apostleship of the Sea, based at the Stella Maris centre in Wynnum, near the Port of Brisbane, is part of an international mission for seafarers.
The mission relies largely on volunteers to care for the spiritual, social and material welfare of seafarers from all over the world. They board ships and talk to the crew, offering friendship and a listening ear. They provide access to the internet so seafarers can contact their families. When a ship docks, they use busses to transport the crew to shops so they can pick up much-needed supplies.
Recently, the mission provided prayers and pastoral support for a grieving crew, when their captain died suddenly at sea. The cargo carrier Sofrana Tourville 2 docked in Brisbane on 16 June and Port chaplain Fr Frank O’Dea conducted a service, consoling the 18-member Filipino crew, and offering blessings for the deceased, the crew, and their vessel.
Centacare Apostleship of the Sea support worker Barry Guest said the mission had delivered more than 430 care packages to crews who, in the past months, had been unable to come ashore.
“Each pack includes useful personal items like shampoo, body wash, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a beanie and snack foods,” said Mr Guest. “Instead of boarding vessels, we leave the packages on the gangway so they can be collected. They are very thankful for what we do for them. We are very thankful for what they do for us.”
Centacare is calling on the community to support seafarers by donating non-perishable snack food and toiletries for care packs. Donations can be left at your local parish office. Please phone Stella Maris on 3348 6629 for further information.
View this great video to find out more about the plight of seafarers – https://www.catholic.org.au/images/Sea_sunday/2019/Apostleship%20of%20the%20Sea.mp4