Seafarers arriving in the ports of Felixstowe and Ipswich have been welcoming a new face on board their ships in recent months.
St Mary’s Ipswich parishioner, Tisha Morelos, has joined Catholic maritime charity Stella Maris as a volunteer ship visitor and now works alongside its local port chaplain Julian Wong. They provide pastoral and practical support to hundreds of men and women whose ships berth at the docks.
Tisha’s first ship visit was in early August where she got to see and speak to the seafarers on board – but not before climbing 86 steps up the ship’s gangway!
“I was able to witness how Julian helped the seafarers. What caught my attention was the smiles they all had when they saw us on board,” she recalls of that visit.
“But what made me conclude that it is God’s will for me to be a ship visitor was during my second visit on the vessel Ocean Breeze. I went with Julian and Fr Trindade Johnson Monteiro, assistant parish priest at St Mary’s, who celebrated Mass on board, followed by fellowship with the crew including the ship master. I could see from the seafarers’ reaction how grateful and happy they were, simply by our presence, and the interaction we had with each other, listening to their stories. I felt that it was God’s mission for me to be there, to make a difference.”
Tisha feels that seafarers embody the true meaning of sacrificing themselves for their families’ future. She says most people are lucky to be able to witness the key milestone moments and events of their children’s lives. Seafarers, due to the nature of their job being at sea for prolonged periods, don’t get to do this.
“I have listened to the struggles of what it is like being a seafarer, the most challenging of which is battling loneliness on board. It has made me realise that ALL the seafarers, regardless of rank, require support for their mental health and wellbeing. A simple visit makes a lot of a difference,” she said.
Tisha, who is originally from the Philippines, has a brother-in-law who is a serving ship master, as well as other relatives and friends who are also seafarers; hence she feels a strong call to be of service to them.
It was in July, after reading about Stella Maris in her parish’s newsletter on Sea Sunday, that she decided to make a go of it and got in touch with chaplain Julian.
“I want to offer my time and my listening skills to seafarers. I know exactly how it feels to be a new face in a foreign land, far from your loved ones. I believe that even the smallest gesture on my part means a lot to them. As I see it, serving seafarers is my way of serving God,” she said.
Tisha worked as a modern matron in a community hospital of East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation NHS Trust and is currently an interim governance manager of the same trust.
She is married and has three children. She enjoys travelling, most especially to pilgrimage sites, and credits her late mum and late aunt for her Marian devotion. She also dances, goes bowling, plays badminton and tennis, and sings for fun.
Tisha’s advice to anyone considering becoming a Stella Maris ship visitor is this. “If you have the passion for people, the willingness to make a difference and most of all a heart of service, don’t hesitate to put yourself forward. Serving humanity is serving the Lord. So come and express your faith through your service to seafarers with Stella Maris.”
To find out more about Stella Maris, including volunteering opportunities, or to donate, please visit: www.stellamaris.org.uk