When Patricia Ezra, East Anglia Port Chaplain with Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) went on board a ship in Ipswich this week she was warmly welcomed by one of its crew.
During a friendly chat, the seafarer mentioned that he was from Tunisia and the only Muslim crew member on his ship.
His ship mates are Russian and Polish. But the seafarer – who speaks fluent Polish and 10 other languages – said he is never singled out because of his religion and there is mutual respect among the crew.
He was happy to receive Catholic prayer cards and other Catholic material handed out by Patricia.
The seafarer said the crew are a family on board and there is a real sense of community and inter-faith understanding.
“During the Muslim month of Ramadan, some of my crew mates even join me in fasting from food and drink,” he said.
Patricia says her ministry as an AoS (Stella Maris) port chaplain is to offer pastoral support and pray for seafarers, whatever their religion may be.
“When I go on board the ships I’m there to show that someone cares for them, someone remembers the good work seafarers do for us, to find out how they are and how they’re getting on. It’s showing God’s love to them,” she said.
As Easter approaches, Patricia and her team of ship visitors in East Anglia will distribute palm crosses, spiritual reading material and chocolates to seafarers on ships.
Sea Sunday which falls on July 14 this year is a day when parishioners in the Diocese are asked to pray for seafarers and for those who work to support seafarers.
A collection is also held that day for the work of Apostleship of the Sea.
Watch a short video of Patricia here. Photos of Patricia on our Flickr site here.