Chaplains from seafarer charity Stella Maris have been delivering Christmas gifts and paying pastoral visits to crews the length and breadth of the United Kingdom.
Since the end of October, Stella Maris Chaplains have been supplementing their normal pastoral visits and provision of essential items for seafarers, with gifts and goods to help crew members celebrate Christmas, as well as survive the onset of the cold winter months ahead.
Such visits of support are appreciated by the seafarers as being vital for their spiritual, mental and physical health and well-being, especially at this time of year, and in particular by those on long contracts. Some of the crew members with whom the chaplains spoke were just months into their six-month contracts. Others were on 12-month contracts; separated from family, friends and loved ones for the entire year.
As the second week of Advent commenced, Deacon Doug Duncan, Regional Port Chaplain, reported back from his travels around ports in the north-east of Scotland, where he, Sister Rosario, and other volunteers had been delivering over 100 Christmas parcels to seafarers from around the globe. Deacon Doug was astounded by God’s providence, as gifts to make up these parcels had come in from parishes far and wide across the region; including hats, mufflers, socks, gloves, sweets, rosaries, books and other items of clothing. The gifts were blessed by Rev Doug following a Mass by Fr Mark Impson on Monday 7th December, the Feast of St Ambrose.
South of the border, Deacon Peter Barrigan, Regional Port Chaplain for Tees, Hartlepool & Seaham, and a team of local volunteers delivered 79 parcels to four ships docked in the North-east. The crews were from China, the Philippines and Turkey, and all were all delighted with the gifts they received; even more so when they heard that they had been freely-donated by school children, church groups, families and individuals from the region.
In the first week of December, Julian Wong, Regional Port Chaplain for East Anglia and Haven Ports, was able to deliver his first Christmas present to seafarers at Felixstowe Port – a large package for the 22 crew members of the Seago Istanbul container ship. Julian reported that the men were delighted with their gift… as well as the opportunity to have their photos taken! Just a couple of weeks previously, as the cold November weather had begun to set in, Julian had already been giving out bags of woolly hats to each of the ships in his local ports, and spoke of the joy one seafarer expressed in being given a rosary and crucifix.
Such essential winter clothing supplies were also being delivered in good time by John Fogarty, Regional Port Chaplain for several ports in the county of Kent, who, at the end of October, spent some time in Sheerness, where many beautifully knitted gifts, including scarves, gloves and hats, had already arrived from generous volunteers, in readiness for distribution to seafarers at Christmas.
And in November, Doug Duncan, Regional Port Chaplain for north-east Scotland, and Sister Rosario, a local Filipino ship visitor for Stella Maris, reported back on their visit to Filipino seafarers onboard the Fugro Galaxy research vessel. They dropped off bags of hats, mufflers, gloves, socks, toiletries, chocolates and religious items to a very happy crew. Several of the crew members told Doug and Sr. Rosario that they would not be returning home until March next year, therefore missing spending Christmas with their families.
In the coming weeks and months, Stella Maris chaplains will be continuing their tireless work, out in all weathers and at all times of the day, providing essential supplies to help support and sustain seafarers – both physically and spiritually – who will be visiting UK ports from all corners of the world throughout this Christmas season and the approaching winter months.