Apostleship of the Sea is a registered charity and agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England & Wales and Scotland that provides pastoral, emotional and practical support, information and a listening ear to seafarers regardless of race and religion who arrive at ports in the Diocese.
Seafarers work in the margins of society and live a semi-nomadic life that’s hidden from view. Many ports, including the ones in Brentwood Diocese are far from towns, 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, and other things.
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.
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.’
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.
Patricia Ezra and Wojciech Holub, Apostleship of the Sea Port Chaplains who work in the Brentwood Diocese, and their team of volunteer ship visitors, support seafarers. They reach out to seafarers by going on board their ships to meet them and extend a hand of friendship.
Many seafarers are themselves Catholic, coming from places like the Philippines, Poland and Goa in India so the work of AoS ship visitors are vital in ensuring AoS’ ministry to them can continue.
Ship visitors are the ‘bridges’ between the Church and seafarers, and play a vital role in taking the Church to seafarers, as many are not able to themselves attend Mass or receive the sacraments.
They are the link that enables AoS reach out to seafarers on the margins and ongoing response to the Gospel.