AoS Immingham port chaplain Fr Colum Kelly reflects on his ministry during the Christmas period 2015. It's an excellent reflection about Aos' ministry supporting them – especially during Liturgical seasons, the seafarers we support and the generosity of parishes and people who are help however they can.
Scripture offers us a splendid list of name places that will always be associated with the Christmas story.
There is Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Egypt and Syria, but for me Christmas begins each year in the unlikely setting of Woodall Service station on the M1.
It is there that I meet a group of parishioners from St Patrick’s parish Leicester and the extraordinary arrival of the Christmas shoeboxes begins.
The Catholic Times covered the story in the Christmas edition of its paper. (You can read the story here).
Where it all begins. Fr Colum with parishioners at Woodall Service station
Later, shoeboxes arrive from other parishes and schools in the diocese notably from Cleethorpes, Grimsby, Lincoln, Louth and Raseby. Boxes also arrived from parishes in Leeds, Sheffield and Coventry.
In all this year we presented 770 shoeboxes to seafarers and around 200 smaller gifts packages. A tremendous act of giving.
Seafarers have little chance of receiving anything from their companies so how wonderful that the Catholic communities make their mark in such generous style.
Yet, most of the presents we receive this time of year are brought to us by seafarers, and the lives they lead is a mystery to most.
I brought 22 boxes to an Indian crew on board a bulk carrier and the chief mate asked me how all this comes about “where does it all come from?”
I explain that all is provided by our parish communities.
He said “Such generosity …. and for people they will never meet”.
Liturgical seasons aren’t really catered for in the seafaring world. A crew leaving here in early to mid-December is likely to be at sea for Christmas and even if in a port, it is unlikely that a priest will be found to celebrate Mass for the crew.
Christmas Mass is very important to the crew and it is a real privilege for me to be able to celebrate this great feast for them, irrespective of the precise date.
Masses are celebrated on board or in our Centre chapel and this year around 400 seafarers have rejoiced in the Christmas story through Mass.