When an all-Chinese crew docked a huge container ship at Felixstowe, little did one of them know that a welcome lay in store for him at the local Catholic church thousands of miles away from his home.
Port chaplain Julian Wong, who arranged the visit for third officer Zhang, has no doubt that the Holy Spirit was at work that morning.
Julian represents Stella Maris, the global charity that for more than 100 years has been aiming to provide a ‘friend in every port’ for seafarers and fishermen. The chaplains and volunteers make around 70,000 ship visits each year.
Julian said, ‘That day, during my morning prayer, I asked the Holy Spirit to lead me to where I would be needed as a Stella Maris chaplain. As I left home, I was heading for Ipswich port but suddenly made a U-turn and went to Felixstowe port instead. My first visit was to a container ship which had an all-Chinese crew. Normally, they wouldn’t require anything. The only officer on duty was on the deck and he mentioned “church” in our conversation. I told him I could take him to St Felix Church.’
‘I told him I was a Catholic, and he said he recognised the crucifix I was wearing and that he was also a Catholic. I asked him whether he would like to receive Holy Communion and he agreed.’
Julian contacted Canon John Barnes, parish priest, and took Zhang and two other non-Catholic seafarers to the church in Gainsborough Road. Zhang prayed and was given Holy Communion. His two friends received a blessing from Canon Barnes.
Julian said, ‘Zhang told me he had thought about church that morning and then I turned up! He said it was Jesus’s work. He said he felt at home in church. I gave him a rosary and he was pleased, as his rosary had broken. This great story shows how the Holy Spirit was at work.’
Pictured above, from the left, are Julian Wong, Canon John Barnes and Zhang in St Felix RC Church