The Right Reverend Mark O'Toole, Bishop of Plymouth celebrated Apostleship of the Sea's (AoS) Stella Maris Mass for seafarers at the Cathedral of St Mary and St Boniface on October 8.
In his homily he thanked AoS for being a visible sign of the Church's concern for seafarers.
“Your presence in ports throughout the world, your daily visits to ships docked in these ports and the fraternal welcome you give to the crews whilst in port are a visible sign of the Church's concern for those who are far from home and who cannot receive ordinary pastoral care through a parish," said Bishop Mark.
He asked those present at Mass to reflect on three words which were at the heart of the Gospel of the day and the heart of AoS’ work – presence, listen, and discernment.
Bishop Mark recalled how earlier in the week he had co-hosted an ecumenical conference on Modern Slavery and with the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall, Inspector Shaun Sawyer.
“It was a good, if troubling day at times, when we heard a lot about the modern forms of slavery. You know this from some of your work in ports and the experience of some seafarers who can be kept imprisoned in service of unscrupulous commercial vessels for months on end,” he told the congregation that consisted mostly of AoS chaplains, ship visiting volunteers, donors and supporters.
Bishop O’Toole said, “It was lovely to hear the Chief Constable speak to me so warmly and positively of the work of Apostleship of the Sea. He told me how important your presence is in those situations and, on occasion, being the whistle blower to the abuse of people’s dignity.
“It struck me, in the light of that Gospel that you are like messengers of good news – like the Archangel Gabriel – bringing the presence of the Lord into a dark world.”
He added, “You are the Church, present in some very difficult situations and bringing the Good news to those whom you meet.
“You are there to remind them that they are not abandoned, that the Lord is with them. AoS is something of which the Catholic Church can be rightly proud, so thank you,” he said.
In the Plymouth Diocese, AoS’ chaplains and ship visitors provide spiritual, pastoral and welfare support to seafarers who arrive at ports in the South West. This includes organising Mass and prayers on board ships as well as helping seafarers contact their families back home.
More photos of the Mass can be found on our Flickr site.