The Stella Maris Mass, in honour of Our Lady Star of the Sea, was celebrated by Bishop Alan Hopes and attended by AoS port chaplains, volunteers, supporters, head office staff, trustees and local parishioners.
In his homily, Bishop Alan spoke of Mary as the lodestar of travellers, all pilgrims making their way home to God.
“She is the special patron and lodestar of all seafarers – who turn to her in their challenging work as they travel the world by sea and as they face all the difficulties and frustrations of working away from their families and loved ones for such long spells,” said Bishop Alan.
“Tonight we come to return thanks to God for the work of the Apostleship of the Sea and to pray for those of you who work in East Anglian ports such as Felixstowe, King’s Lynn and Lowestoft, as chaplains and volunteers, serving the needs of those who work at sea for long stretches, many of whom are Catholic.
“I have seen you at work in a service that has touched the hearts of so many seafarers. You befriend and respond to the immediate needs of those who come ashore for short intervals – particularly being able to connect them with their families, to provide them with a shelter in the chaplaincy and assist them to get rest and refreshment.
“I know that you and local priests also assist them in their spiritual needs so that their faith is renewed and strengthened. I know that you pray for them and offer Mass for them. They know and welcome the power and strength of your prayer and your love,” said Bishop Alan.
After Mass, the congregation enjoyed refreshments in the Narthex, courtesy of AoS. East Anglia Ports Chaplain, Patricia Ezra, spoke about her personal experiences of her first year or so in the role.
“I have experienced the sad and the bizarre and everything in-between,” said Pat. “But the seafarers are almost always pleased to see you and greet you with a big smile and a welcome. The look in their eyes when they see that someone is interested in them, and occasionally they will ask you to pray for them or organise a Mass. Your support to enable me to do this is absolutely vital. It is a very simple ministry at one level but it makes such an enormous difference to them.”
Pictured top is Bishop Alan preaching at the Mass and, above talking to John Green and port chaplain Pat Ezra from Apostleship of the Sea.