Stella Maris, a Catholic charity. We are also known as the Apostleship of the Sea, but over the next year we are making the change to ‘Stella Maris’ the name seafarers know us as.
Stella Maris has chaplains and volunteers in ports all over the world, ‘a friend in every port’ for seafarers and fishermen, in good times and bad alike. I’d like to share with you one story of how vital the work of Stella Maris is for seafarers and their families when difficulties arise.
A group of Kenyan seafarers were stuck in Cape Town Port for over a year between 2017 and 2019 and were supported by Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea).
The men had been working on a tug boat which was hired to deliver a barge from Mombasa in Kenya to Port Elizabeth in South Africa, they were then to sail on to Nigeria.
After delivering the barge the crew tried to sail onwards to Nigeria, but extremely high waves forced them to turn back to Port Elizabeth.
They waited for the weather to clear and eventually reached Cape Town some weeks later.
For over a year the seafarers were stranded in the port as a deal with the new tug owner failed to materialise, and their ship was put into dry dock for repairs
The crew, three Catholics and four Muslims were visited onboard their ship in Cape Town by the Stella Maris director, Nicky Barends. Nicky said ‘I can’t imagine how they coped; arriving here after a dangerous voyage which left them fearing for their lives, and then stranded in a foreign port away from their families for over a year.
For many months the crew didn’t receive their salaries. Can you imagine what it would be like for you not receiving your salary month after month. One seafarer asked Nicky to intervene on his behalf. He was very worried as he needed to send money home as his child in Kenya needed medical treatment. He also told Nicky that the ships cook had gone back home to Kenya without getting paid the salary that was owed to him.
During the many months this crew was stranded in Cape Town the Stella Maris team; Nicky and his volunteers visited the crew regularly to support them and let them know they were not forgotten. They took the Catholic seafarers to Saturday evening Mass at the seafarers’ centre each week and oneweek Nicky arranged a barbecue at his home for them to try and keep their spirits up.
Working with the Stella Maris team in London and other maritime authorities after nearly two years all the crew were eventually sent home and paid their wages. Meaning that families could be reunited and children’s medical treatment could continue.
Every year Stella Maris visits more than 70,000 ships around the world, day in day out. This work is only possible thanks to your prayers, generous donations and those people who remember Stella Maris with a gift in their Will.
So today, on Sea Sunday, I ask you to pray for seafarers who bring us the goods we consume every day, pray for the Stella Maris chaplains and volunteers who ensure that seafarers can live with dignity and practise their faith.
Your generous contributions today will help all this work continue.
If you are a tax payer, please complete one of the Gift Aid envelopes to make this collection go a little further. Last year the extra tax from the Gift Aid enabled AoS to visit 500 ships helping 10,000 seafarers.
Thank you for listening and may God bless your generosity.