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St Peter's Parish has a maritime connection supporting The Apostleship of the Sea. This association, sometimes known as "Stella Maris", was set up to support all who live and depend upon the sea for their livelihood. This is done through a network of chaplains and lay volunteers in the ports of England and Wales. In some ports we have residential centres, whilst in smaller ports the ministry tends to be parish-based.
After a recent appeal by Bishop Tom Burn, together with Bishop Kieran, a number of parishioners in Sussex joined the association to visit seafarers on the ships that call at Newhaven, Shoreham and Portsmouth. Fr Patrick Foley, Southampton Port Chaplain, prepared Geoff Breeze to work in Portsmouth. Geoff is Vice Chairman of the Pastoral Parish Council and has a life-long interest in ships and the sea. He now regularly visits ships in Portsmouth with his AOS colleagues Len and Mary Edwards and Elfi Ip, and describes his work.
Len Edwards, Mary Edwards, Elfi Ip and Geoff Breeze with Fr Patsy Foley, Southampton Port Chaplain
"Until recently, the seafarers on the more than 1,000 ships who visit Portsmouth each year had not received ship visits. The majority of seafarers visiting our shores come from poorer countries, 60% of them with a Catholic background. Consequently, a friendly visit from someone local in a foreign port is more than welcome.
"Ship visitors go onboard to offer the hand of friendship to seafarers far from home. They provide information about the local area and may help seafarers contact their loved ones back home. Should the seafarers want to visit the town or need help going to mass at the local church, the ship visitor can help arrange this.
"Many come from Catholic countries such as the Philippines and the Ukraine. Language can be a problem; to help, cards are available explaining what AOS is in their language. Invariably, these crewmembers appreciate our visits and personal contact. We are always ready to visit a new or irregular visiting ship.
"Much of the support that AOS gives is to provide the seafarers with someone to talk to about their families and their work. AOS also helps them keep in touch with home by supplying phone cards and daily newsletters sent to ship visitors by email.
"We visit in pairs on most weekdays so most of the ships regularly calling are covered whenever they are in Portsmouth, Southampton or Shoreham. We are able to offer clothing and knitwear, books, videos, CDs, bibles (no charge). If a seaman has a special day that he wants to celebrate, such as a birthday, a wedding anniversary etc., we can help to arrange for Fr Foley to say mass onboard.
A happy Christmas for a Filipino crew onboard a banana boat in Portsmouth
"Seafarers are typically away from home and family for nine months of the year and this often includes Christmas and new year. Most seafarers are Catholic and rarely receive a Christmas present. Local AOS ships’ visitors go onboard in the local ports over the Christmas, new year and Easter periods, offering small gifts. Woolly hats, gloves, scarves and jumpers are welcome to combat the English weather. Other items that are useful include toiletries, toothbrushes, flannels, soap, writing materials, pens, pencil sharpeners etc., as well as CDs and videos. Seamen have also asked for copies of Reader's Digest and National Geographic magazines. If you have a surplus of these or any similar magazines, or can provide/donate articles to help the seafarers, then please contact me, Geoffrey Breeze, on 01243 671082, and I will collect any gifts that you can offer.
"It's a great blessing to be part of such a much-needed ministry, and gives real meaning to the words 'I was a stranger and you made me welcome'."
Apostleship of the Sea is an agency of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales. AOS was founded in Glasgow in 1922 and has since spread to 89 countries around the world. It is both a mission and welfare outreach of the church, providing help to all seafarers regardless of colour, creed or nationality. AOS works closely with its ecumenical partners in mission: Mission to Seafarers and British & International Sailors' Society, as well as Deutsche Seemannsmission and the Nordic seafarer societies.
Further details from:
John Green, Assistant Director of Fundraising & Media
Commodore Chris York, National Director
020 7588 8285