Our East Anglia Port Chaplain Patricia Ezra writes…
Sunday the 1st Dec was a first for me. My ship visitor Julian Wong had contacted me earlier in the week to say he was arranging for Mass to be said on the CPO Baltimore on a Sunday morning!
I wondered how he had managed this bearing the mind the shortage of priests and the fact that the Port Chaplain Fr John Barnes would indeed be saying Mass for his parish on a Sunday morning. It turned out that Julian’s parish currently has an assistance priest who has only arrived recently from India so currently is not fully committed for Sunday Masses and Fr Bineesh was eager to help. It turned out that his father was a retired fisherman so he was wanted to understand more about life at sea.
Julian and Fr Bineesh
Meanwhile, Julian had been in contact with the Captain of the MV Barry that had berthed next to the CPO Baltimore and mentioned that they could have Mass on board if they would like, as we were already saying Mass on the ship ‘next door’, so to speak.
He was pleased to accept this offer so the scene was set for two Masses to be said, both on a Sunday morning, on container ships, in Felixstowe. I collected Julian and Fr Bineesh from Ipswich and we headed to the port.
A pass was obtained for Fr Bineesh, from Adrian, a very helpful member of the port police and them we could go through security and on to the dock. Pulling up by the ship it was clear we were expected and the seafarers helped us bring our bags aboard.
Julian had kindly arranged Christmas presents for the crew and also some food ‘goodies’ for them. We were shown into the crew mess where a table had already been set up for us to use as an altar.
We set up for the Mass and a call was put out to the crew to come along. Before the Mass go underway Julian said thank you to the captain and crew for inviting us to say Mass for them and to Fr Bineesh for offering to help. As you can see there a plenty of smiling faces.
With crew of CPO Baltimore
The captain told us that it was probably more than fifteen years since he had been able to have Mass on his ship. The captain kindly gave us lunch and told us that ten of the crew were off to London for the afternoon.
He has a wellbeing budget and he uses it to arrange trips like this for the crew. They were very excited at the prospect of even a brief trip to London. Bearing in mind that they needed to get away for their London trip we then left the CPO Baltimore and went to visit the MV Barry.
We were a little early for Mass on the MV Barry as we had planned it for 1pm but no one seemed to mind and a table was prepared for us to use as the altar. Several of the seafarers also brought statues and icons to be blessed by Father. During the Mass we all exchanged the sign of peace and this was lovely as everyone wanted to shake everyone’s hand.
WIth the crew of mv Barry
The crew then gave us drinks and cake to say thank you and also a small hamper. We are planning to give this a raffle prize for the forthcoming AoS Carol Concert at Felixstowe labelled as ‘genuine seafarers’ food!’
So as we left the ship there was a general sense that we had provided a real service to the seafarers. Both of the ships we visited were extremely friendly and welcoming and it was a pleasure to be able to serve them.
Particular thanks must go to Julian and Fr Beineesh for being prepared to undertake this ministry.
Patricia with Fr Bineesh