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Chaplain organises shopping for stranded seafarers

With seafarers stranded on board and unable to come ashore due to Covid, the role of a port chaplain has become more vital than ever. Julian Wong reports.

The Covid-19 pandemic struck so suddenly, and countries closed their borders quickly. Port chaplains from Stella Maris (formerly known as Apostleship of the Sea) were then only allowed to visit seafarers at the bottom of the gangways.

Over the years, I had used social media to befriend seafarers and fishermen calling at the East Anglian ports, and it became a vital tool in supporting them during the lockdown.

Early in lockdown, a seafarer in the Mediterranean messaged me requesting help to get a further supply of his vital medication. With the help of the Genoa Stella Maris port chaplain where the ship was heading, we were able to meet his request.

With seafarers unable to go ashore, I help them send money home to their families. I also helped the chief cook of a vessel replenish his stock on board.

Some seafarers just long for McDonald’s burgers after weeks at sea – so I get these for them. I supply them with mobile phone sim cards so they can communicate with their families. I hand them woolly hats, toiletries, prayer cards, Stella Maris magazines, rosaries and bibles. I pray with them and for them. They are remembered at the daily Mass at St Mark’s Church in Ipswich. I pray live for them on Radio Maria England every Thursday.

I supported a Samoan seafarer, who had spent 21 months on board, and missed his daughter’s birth and her first birthday. With the help of Stella Maris and other bodies, he was repatriated home after 22 months.

With Denmark’s Stella Maris port chaplain, Kiribatian seafarers whom I had befriended at Felixstowe port were supported until their repatriation home. They were stuck in Denmark after having spent 19 months at sea.

From mid-May, I have been permitted again to visit seafarers on the decks of their vessels.

But I and other Stella Maris port chaplains cannot do this work without your support. Your prayers and generous donations ensure we can continue to welcome and support seafarers. You can help in two ways this Sea Sunday (July 11).

Firstly, please remember seafarers and fishers in your prayers. Thank God for them and the vital role they play in our lives, often working in difficult, hazardous conditions and harsh weather.

Secondly, please give a donation. Your gift will help us support seafarers who may be stranded and who may not have seen their families for months.

You can donate by:

Thank you for any support you can give.

Pictured above is Julian Wong, Stella Maris Regional Port Chaplain