Sea Sunday - Apostleship of the Sea - July 11

Sea Sunday is the annual day in which many Christian congregations pray for seafarers and their families and thank them for their vital work - Photo:bigstock.comSea Sunday is the annual day in which many Christian congregations pray for seafarers and their families and thank them for their vital work - Photo:bigstock.com

Sea Sunday is the annual day in which many Christian congregations pray for seafarers and their families and thank them for their vital work. Stella Maris, previously known as The Apostleship of the Sea, is the Catholic Church’s missionary outreach to seafarers that provides spiritual, social and material support. Stella Maris communities around the world celebrate Sea Sunday. Mary Mother of God known among other titles as Star of the Sea, is the patron of Stella Maris.  Stars have been navigational aids throughout the ages and is, therefore, an important image for the mission.

The Catholic Church recognises the significant challenges that seafarers have faced since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In his Sea Sunday message 2020, Cardinal Peter Turkson from the Holy See said, ‘The COVID-19 pandemic brought many countries to a complete shutdown and to enforce an extended lockdown for many businesses in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus.  However, the maritime industry continued its operation, adding a multitude of challenges to the already problematic lives of the seafarers and putting them on the front line in fighting against the coronavirus.’ 

Josephite Sr Mary Leahy, who is the Port Chaplain for the Archdiocese of Sydney and Stella Maris Regional Coordinator for Oceania says: ‘Seafarers are the human beings who work on cargo ships and are responsible for delivering most (over 90%) of our food, medicine, electronics, fuel and motor vehicles to our ports on a daily basis. This they do at enormous personal cost at the best of times. They work far from home for up to 12 months at a time, encountering much hardship and abuse. Communities seem to welcome the essential cargo these people deliver daily but fail to recognise the cost on those who deliver.’

Catholics are invited to be aware of the needs of seafarers on Sea Sunday and to show their support.

In a blog published on 3rd June 2021, the Australian Policy Centre stated that international border closures due to the pandemic continue to impact international seafarers and migrant workers worldwide. Throughout the pandemic seafarers have been stranded at sea in unsafe conditions, including grossly extended working hours, risks of Covid-19 clusters, and lack of access to medical care with impacts on mental and physical health and well-being. They state ‘this all contributes to seafarer’s sense of vulnerability and abandonment, as an infringement of human rights.’  Other seafarers are stranded at home, unable to obtain work to provide for their families due to border closures. 

Throughout this crisis, international agencies continue to advocate for seafarers to resolve these issues. 2021 has been named ‘A year of action for seafarers’ to recognise these ongoing challenges and raise support. Stella Maris Australia signed the 2021 Neptune Declaration, an international statement that calls for seafarers to be recognised as essential workers, enabling them priority access to the Covid-19 vaccine, the implementation of best practice healthcare protocols, and improved processes to enable crew changes. 

Pope Francis, in his Extraordinary Moment of Prayer in 2020, stated of the pandemic: ‘Like the disciples in the Gospel, we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm.  We have realised that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other.  On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realised that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.’

Catholics are invited to be aware of the needs of seafarers on Sea Sunday and to show their support. 

 ‘Let us pray for all those on the margins of society; the poor, migrants, prisoners and the elderly.  We pray especially for seafarers and fishers who work far from their homes and for their families and for all those who support them.  We make our prayer through Christ, our harbour of peace.  Amen.’

(adapted from prayers from Stella Maris UK)

Sr Caroline Vaitkunas RSM is a team member of the Columban Peace, Ecology & Justice office in Australia.

 

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