Reaching out to confined seafarers
As Catholics around the nation prepare to honour the work of seafarers through the annual Sea Sunday Appeal, the local Stella Maris centre is making a touching gesture to let crews know they are “not alone” and “our thoughts and prayers are with you always”.
Since the coronavirus crisis began, crews arriving at Inner and Outer Harbor at Port Adelaide have not been permitted to disembark, meaning they have been unable to access the services and hospitality normally provided by the Stella Maris centre at Taperoo.
Centre manager Ian Keane said their team of volunteers – a majority whom are parishioners at Lefevre Catholic Community – were concerned for the welfare of the seafarers, many of whom spend long stretches at sea and look forward to their time on land.
They wanted to let the men know they valued their work and that Stella Maris, which has been providing support to seafarers worldwide for the past 100 years, was thinking of them.
Trying to find a way to support the seafarers in these challenging times, Mr Keane applied and was successful in obtaining a $3000 grant from the TK Foundation in the USA, with the money being used to create 250 Welcome Packs.
“These men are on the ships for nine months of the year, every year and they really appreciate if you just sit and talk to them,” Mr Keane said.
“It’s been very hard for them in the past few months as they have not been allowed off the ships and we just wanted to let them know we are thinking of them.
“This is not a pack made out of sympathy, it is our way of saying welcome and we are grateful for what they do.
“They will always be welcome with us.”
Students at Our Lady of the Visitation School at Taperoo have also shown their support for the seafarers by making bookmarks that have been included in the packs.
On each bookmark is the message, ‘Thank you. We are thinking of you. Keep safe’, accompanied by the Dr Seuss quote, ‘To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world’.
The Australiana-themed packs also include a beanie, pen, koala key ring, block of chocolate, packet of potato chips and a Stella Maris calendar.
The Sea Sunday Appeal on July 12 serves to shine a light on the work of the Catholic Church’s international agency, Apostleship of the Sea (AOS), which attends to the welfare of seafarers in many ports around Australia and elsewhere through Stella Maris centres and chaplaincies.
This year the theme for Sea Sunday is ‘Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest’. (Matthew 11: 28).
In resources sent to parishes, the AOS outlines how seafarers are burdened “more than most other workers”.
“They are burdened by isolation, loneliness, exploitation, wage theft, climatic hardship, physical, sexual and verbal abuse, fear of piracy, insecure employment.
“During this COVID-19 period, all these burdens have been exacerbated leading to extreme stress on seafarers working on cargo and cruise ships globally.”
In non-COVID times, Stella Maris chaplains, volunteers and staff are able to visit and speak with the crews, offer friendship, arrange Mass and attend Mass with them, listen to their needs, and provide internet access so they can contact their families. Hospitality is also offered within Stella Maris centres, providing an important break from work routines on board.
Stella Maris worldwide is celebrating its centenary in 2020, albeit not as planned due to the pandemic. Locally, a special Mass was due to be held at Our Lady of the Visitation Church last month but it has been postponed until October, when it is hoped director Roslyn Rajasingam and Bishop Bosco Puthur from the national AOS office will be able to attend.
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