The hard-working seafarers that crew container ships and other shipping vessels are among the true frontline heroes of the past year. Therefore, this year, when their services have been needed more so than ever, on Sea Sunday, we gave thanks to God for them; just as we clapped for carers in the Spring.
Stella Maris’ annual Sea Sunday appeal took place on Sunday 20th December – postponed from its originally scheduled date in July. An immense debt of gratitude is owed to the numerous chaplains, volunteers, deacons and priests who, despite the challenges of the time, stepped forth to promote the work of the seafarers’ charity.
Thanks to their efforts, many prayers and Masses were offered up for the work of Stella Maris, and much-needed funds were raised through the very generous donations of our countless friends and supporters across the UK. Stella Maris wishes to thank all involved in making the day a success; even during these difficult and testing times.
Seafarers the world over are no strangers when it comes to pressing ahead with their work and continuing on their voyage, even amidst the most challenging and adverse weather conditions.
The past year has seen all of us face challenging conditions of a manifestly different, though not necessarily any easier kind. Lives were turned upside down and normal work practices suspended, as the Coronavirus pandemic swept across the world in a matter of months.
Amidst the turmoil, one of the most remarkable aspects of the crisis is that the global trade of goods has continued virtually unaffected; food continues to arrive in our shops from all around the world, not to mention medicine, medical equipment and an immeasurably diverse range of other goods.
However, such service and continued provision of our essential supplies has come at a cost. On 20th December, in his Angelus address, Pope Francis highlighted the plight of stranded seafarers who have had to work beyond their contracts and who are unable to return home due to airline cancellations, border closures and national quarantine rules brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. Regarding this crisis, the Holy Father said:
“Dear brothers and sisters, the coronavirus pandemic has caused particular distress to seafarers. Many of them – an estimated 400,000 worldwide – are stuck on the ships beyond the terms of their contracts and are unable to return home. I ask the Virgin Mary, Stella Maris, to comfort these people and all those who live in difficult situations, and I urge governments to do everything possible so that they can return to their loved ones.”Pope Francis, Vatican City, 20th December 2020
During such times, when many seafarers faced a miserable, lonely Christmas, thousands of miles away from their families, the practical, emotional and spiritual support that Stella Maris provides, is a lifeline for these often exhausted and anxious men and women in need. Therefore, this year’s Sea Sunday celebrations and appeals were as vital as ever in giving thanks to God for these brave men and women; as well as collecting funds to enable the essential work of Stella Maris to continue amidst these desperately challenging times.
The funds collected across the United Kingdom during the Sea Sunday appeals will help to facilitate the work of Stella Maris throughout the coming year. This work includes enabling our chaplains and volunteers to be out, as usual, visiting seafarers on the gangway or dockside – even on Christmas Day. It includes handing out small gifts and providing vital pastoral care, as well as providing welfare packages of food and toiletries, and faith resources, such as rosaries, Bibles and prayer books.
Throughout the year, and especially during the Christmas season, our chaplains and volunteers will also provide Wi-Fi and help to facilitate internet access, such that the seafarers they meet can speak to and see the faces of their family members and loved ones back home; some of whom they may not have seen for over a year – or indeed in the case of new-born babies, perhaps a son or daughter whom they have not yet seen at all.