While Pat, the AoS chaplain to the ports on the coast of East Anglia, spends much of her time providing practical help to seafarers, such as mobile phone top-up cards, warm clothing, or transport to local shops, she also helps support their faith.
“Catholic seafarers are away from the sacraments for up to nine months due to the nature of their work. As ships are often now in port for not much more than 24 hours, getting to Mass or the Sacrament of Reconciliation can be very difficult and often impossible,” said Pat.
The maritime industry and the seafarers who work in it might seem remote from our daily lives. Yet around 90% of the goods imported into the UK arrive by ship. This includes everything from coffee and cars to fridges and oranges. The seafarers who bring all of this are often away from their families for months.
July 8 is Sea Sunday, when the Church asks us to pray for seafarers and support the work of AoS, the maritime agency of the Catholic Church.
Pat often carries with her prayer cards and copies of Bible Alive when she goes on board a ship. And she also distributes where possible the times of Masses for Easter at the churches which are closest to the ports.
During Lent and Easter, she travelled around the ports, distributing ashes, blessed palms and, after Easter Sunday, gifts.
“This year small bundles of eggs were given out to seafarers that I met after Easter in Felixstowe, on ships such as the Vione, the Msc Carmen and the Zhen Hua.
“At Ipswich I visited the Fagelgracht, Wes Nicole, Kitty C and other ships, wishing seafarers happy Easter, both those who are Catholic and those from the Orthodox faiths which celebrate Easter a week later than us.”
The majority of Catholic seafarers are Filipino and are often serving the longest contracts, usually nine months, explained Pat. “Due to the shift patterns and short times in port, they rarely get to Mass but never the less are always delighted with the gift of a rosary as recognition of their faith.
“What seems to make a great difference is the fact that someone has remembered that they are still part of the Church, even if they are unable to attend Mass very often.
“Not being forgotten is important to us all but even more so to the seafarers who silently work on our behalf bringing us the goods that fill our shops,” said Pat.
Pictured above is port chaplain Pat Eza, in her distinctive pink hard hat, on-board a ship.