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Celebrating Mass on the high seas

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Catholics who found themselves enjoying a holiday on the high seas over Easter would have been pleased to learn they were able to celebrate their faith in their usual fashion.

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With the popularity of holidaying on a cruise ship seemingly on the rise, liner companies are ensuring chaplains are on board and available at the most important times on the Christian calendar, namely Easter and Christmas.

The Apostleship of the Sea in Australia now collaborates with its counterpart in the USA to provide priests for the Cruise Ship Chaplaincy Program. The chaplains are responsible for serving the spiritual needs of passengers and crew and say Mass daily.

With retirement looming, Fr Leon Czechowicz, parish priest at Clearview-Kilburn parish signed up a couple of years ago to offer his services. Fr John Shanahan from St Ann’s parish, has also been a cruise ship chaplain for about the past 15 years.

Fr Leon has completed two cruises with Holland America – one to Alaska and the other from Quebec to New York – and said it had been an enjoyable way to see new scenery while serving God.

With many of the crew from the Philippines and most of the passengers from USA, he said there were a lot of Catholics attending the daily Mass in the chapel, which also serves as a lounge.

“It’s no different saying Mass aboard a ship – other than you look out the porthole and see the sea going past,” he said.

Fr Leon said he signed up because he thought it would be a good way to undertake some travel in his retirement years.

“I’ve always enjoyed a bit of travel and this is low cost. It’s also a chance to meet new people.

“The bulk of the passengers on my first cruise were retired Americans, and the average age aboard the ship was about the 70 year mark.

“There are so many people in America who are truly fervent and hanging onto their faith and because of the numbers coming to Mass there were always people asking me, ‘padre come and have a meal with us’.”

Fr Leon said most cruise liners would have chaplains only on board for Easter and Christmas, however Holland America provides chaplains on all of its cruises.

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