Ana Dobeson, photographer for the Diocese of Portsmouth, made her first visit to ships in the Port of Southampton recently accompanied by Fr John Lavers, Regional Port Chaplain for Stella Maris – AoS.
Ana wanted to go along and see what kind of work Stella Maris-Apostleship of the Sea does in relation to the spiritual, pastoral and practical care given to seafarers from around world.
Here, in her own words, are Ana’s thoughts from her ship-visiting experience.
‘As we walked down from the last ship we visited, Fr John asked me what were my thoughts about what I've just experienced visiting the seafarers. At the time I could not put my thoughts into words, I went blank as I was trying to have this whole experience sink-in and understand it all.
Later-on, while returning home, I thought about all the years I've taken photos at the AoS Annual Stella Maris Mass at the Cathedral of St John the Evangelist in Portsmouth….it really saddened me to realise how little I understood about it.
I saw the volunteers, priests, and members of AoS, I took photos before, during and after the Mass, but not until now could I understand what it was all about.
I suppose one needs to get near the situation to really understand it. We went onto three ships, belonging to two different companies. I have never before been in this kind of environment…. It was very different to what we see when boarding as a passenger on a ferry.
You could see how these seafarers work in very, very hard conditions, in the cold and sometimes wet environment….how they can feel very lonely and isolated far from their own families, friends, homes and countries.
These seafarers spend very long periods of time at sea. One said his wife was expecting a baby in August and he knew he would not be there for the birth of his child.
Some of these seafarers are not even allow to have a much-needed break, to have a few steps on firm land after a long time at sea. Some of them have water restrictions on their ship; some cannot even have contact with their families, as there is no communication (internet) on their ship.
They have to live in small areas sharing accommodations and making the ship to feel like a home and family, I wonder if this really happens…however they must experience very tough times.
But what really amazed me more, was their welcoming towards us, their smiles, their modesty, their hospitality offering us drinks… How grateful some of them were to Father John as he handed out chocolates, woolly hats, leaflets about Lent, AoS information, how they hold and looked at the Rosaries and prayer cards!
These seafarers deserve recognition and acknowledgement. These seafarers spend very long periods of time at sea. We take for granted the amazing work they do. We should be aware that every time we go shopping there are many seafarers on a long and maybe lonely journey to bring us food, cars, equipment, materials… etc so we can eat, dress, drive a car, build a house…. etc.
Pray for seafarers.’