By ACBC and Amanda Murthy
Australia’s Bishops have welcomed the seven-member Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) National Committee at its inaugural meeting and commissioning ceremony in Sydney on 11 September.
The newly appointed members include Deacon Patrick Moore, Jenny Abood, Joseph McNamara, Maureen Grealy, Peter Cahill, Julie Armstrong, and Ray Collins.
Approved by the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life (part of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference), the National Committee will support the agency in its role to provide spiritual and pastoral care for seafarers arriving at Australian ports, aided by a network of Stella Maris centre managers, port chaplains, and volunteers.
AoS Chair Dcn Moore told The Record that he hopes the newly appointed committee hopes to create more awareness of AoS among Catholics in the wider community, as there are still many small ports around the country with no help available to the seafarers.
“At the moment, I am the only ordained person in Australia who is working in this ministry,” Dcn Moore said.
“I have been asked to speak at the National Conference of Permanent Deacons in October 2019 and hope to be able to encourage other deacons to enter this ministry which I am sure they will find challenging and rewarding.”
Another goal, Dcn Moore added, is to encourage AoS centres to work closely with those operated by the Mission to Seafarers.
“We are starting in this endeavour with our first joint training seminar in February 2019, when 10 persons from each organisation will come together for four days.”
Dcn Moore added that the most rewarding part of his ministry and mission is when the seafarers comment on how much they value the presence of AoS centres around the world, as places where they can relax and feel at home.
“When men are injured, or are sick and are hospitalised in Australia, we try to visit and support them until their repatriation. This has often been, for me, a very rewarding experience and times when I have felt most valued,” he said.
“Much credit should be given to the volunteers at Fremantle who are equally committed to the welfare of all our visitors.
“It is great to work in a team with a common mission,” Dcn Moore continued.
Bishop Bosco Puthur, Australian Bishop Promoter for the AoS, said he is pleased that this milestone has been reached because the new group has been established by the Bishops to provide advice, expertise, and guidance.
“The bishops are looking forward to the National Committee really making a difference on stewarding this ministry to seafarers and developing it further,” Bishop Puthur said.
“The committee will be an important support for me as Bishop Promoter and for National Director Roslyn Rajasingam.”
“The maritime industry is changing and there are many challenges and demands which impact seafarers in their life, work and families. It’s very important that we have a group like this, so that we can plan to meet the future needs of seafarers, nationally,” he added.
With about one-million seafarers on the world’s oceans at any time and 90 per cent of Australia’s trade reliant on shipping, Australia’s ports are key points to offer ministry and pastoral care.
Seafarers are confronted with very real threats and dangers to their lives and can suffer from high rates of suicide, depression and self-harm. Some common issues affecting seafarers include: exposure to piracy and criminal activity in oceans surrounding Australia; poor working conditions; and isolation and distance from family while at sea.
The AoS cares for the spiritual, social and material welfare of all seafarers, whether they be on merchant, passenger, war or fishing vessels. While the Church has always been interested in seafarers since Christ first gathered his fishermen-disciples around him, the modern movement began in the 1890s.
Stella Maris centres are an important feature of the agency which operates globally under the auspices of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development in Rome.