Stella Maris Chaplains’ Diary… April & May, 2021

Chaplain John Fogarty at the Port of Northfleet, hands out resources to seafarers from the ‘Wuchang’ vessel

Throughout the Easter season our chaplains have been providing much-needed resources, as well as a friendly face to seafarers who are far from home.


Port: Felixstowe… Our East Anglia port chaplain, Julian Wong, met a seafarer on the ‘Ever Goods’ container ship, who was craving for some chocolates, but was unable to go ashore. So Julian bought a good supple of chocolates from the seafarers’ centre and gave them to him as a present. He assured Julian that he was going to share them with the crew. Julian reported that needless to say, he was very pleased. He’s from Sri Lanka and a Buddhist, but thankful when Julian prayed for him.

A few days previously, also at Felixstowe, Julian was on the deck of ‘MSC Carouge’ container ship, where he met a 25-yrs-old Filipino Third Officer, as well as an OS (Ordinary Seaman). After handing them rosary prayer cards and the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy Prayer cards and rosaries, the OS asked about the Chaplet of Divine Mercy prayer.

After explaining to them how to pray the Chaplet, Julian led them in praying the whole Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. Normally, Julian says that he would have prayed the rosary and the Chaplet of The Divine Mercy at home after breakfast, but as he had to get to the port by 8am, he didn’t on this occasion…. “It’s amazing how things turned out. God is good!”

Julian said that they had told him that their families are fine at home. They wrote their prayer requests in his note-book; praying for good health, well-being and protection from Covid for their families and the crew on-board. They hope to get vaccinated when they get home.

Port: Dover… After more than one year John Fogarty, our Medway and Dover Regional Port Chaplain, was back visiting both freight and cruise vessels in Dover.

After getting lateral flow tests (to ensure he was clear of Covid), John visited the Disney Magic cruise ship, which was docked in port, with fellow chaplain David Slater, the lead chaplain for the ecumenical chaplaincy team in Dover.

John said, “It was good to be back and good to meet so many people that we haven’t seen for so long. I shared with David about my ministry of presence during the lockdown, and David shared with me his ministry of silent prayer for all he sees and all who work in the offices in the port as well as on board.”

They agreed to do both going forward – a ministry of ‘Prayerful Presence’ as they visit seafarers, fishers, and maritime workers.

Port: Ipswich… The seafarers pictured below were grateful and delighted when our chaplain, Julian Wong, handed them these MiFi units to use on his recent visit to Ipswich.

Like all of us, being able to communicate with family is so important, especially when we haven’t physically seen them for many months, and so these small devices that let multiple users share a mobile broadband internet connection, are more than just the latest gadget – they are an essential link to family, friends and loved ones back home.


Port: Northfleet… prior to his return to the port of Dover (see above), John Fogarty paid his monthly visit to Northfleet, where he usually catches up with a deep-sea arrival from Australia. This month, the vessel was Wuchang, a Hong Kong flagged vessel with 19 seafarers of various nationalities. These included Captain Mario from Croatia, as well as crew members from China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Ukraine.

In order to be ready for their visit, John had been in touch with the vessel for over a week since she cleared the Suez Canal. He had to order various items for the chief cook in addition to several other items for the crew. These included 20 phone cards. This meant John had quite a task in making several visits to the exchange bureau; changing foreign currency to and from Pound Sterling and US Dollars.

John reported that he had a great day, chatting and ministering to the crews; which included a prayer service from the quayside. The men were not allowed outside of the port at the time, however after such a long time at sea (49 days), it was clear that the seafarers just found it nice to chat… as well as to visit the boot of John’s car several time for some goodies!

That night, John also had a long chat with the Captain and Chief Engineer, as they explained to him about their transit through the Suez Canal. Although there was a six-day delay in their overall voyage, it had no effect on the cargo, as they were lead blocks! John reported that it was a very interesting time and he and the Captain discussed the Captain’s family and small children back in Croatia, as well as praying together – socially distanced, of course.

Earlier in the month, over the Easter weekend, our Chaplains at ports throughout the United Kingdom, had also been busy paying visits to seafarers to wish them a Happy Easter.

Port: Ipswich… Our East Anglia Regional Port Chaplain Julian Wong visited four ships at Ipswich Port on Easter Sunday, giving an Easter chocolate egg to each seafarer on board. Most of them were Russians and Ukrainians, who celebrate Easter next month, however they were pleased with the eggs.

Port: Rosyth… Our Clyde Regional Port Chaplain, Deacon Joe O’Donnell, organised for Fr Antony from St Mungo’s church to celebrate Mass on board the Balmoral cruise ship docked in Rosyth. The crew renewed their baptismal vows and Mass was very well received. Chocolates were distributed to the crew!

Port: Southampton… It was a very Happy Easter on the dockside in Southampton with Palm Crosses and Easter Eggs donated by the Parish of St Patrick’s in Woolston. These were handed out by our Regional Port Chaplains. The all-Filipino crew had an Easter Service onboard when the ship sailed later on in the day.