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Sheltering the homeless – the corporal works of mercy
When I talk to our AoS port chaplains and ship visitors about what they do, they often say, “When we go on board a ship and meet the crew one of the most important things is to provide a welcome.”
Given that port chaplains and ship visitors can sometimes find themselves helping to resolve issues over pay or conditions on a ship, or arranging for the repatriation of a sick or injured seafarer, doing something as simple as providing a welcome might seem insignificant.
But, with shipping contracts today, seafarers are away from their homes and their families often for nine or more months at a time. When they arrive in a port they are very much strangers in a foreign land. It’s not their home.
Many seafarers visiting Britain come from countries such as the Philippines, India, and Ukraine. They don’t know anyone and some speak little or no English.
What AoS port chaplains and ship visitors do is make seafarers feel at home during their brief stay in a port. They do this in many practical ways, such as providing phone cards, so they can contact their families, or arranging transport to the local shops.
And, just as importantly, they do it by being a friendly face, someone who reaffirms them as human beings.
Last year, Sister Marian Davey saw an idea of hers come to reality when a seafarers’ centre was opened in the port of King’s Lynn. This means that seafarers now have a place to relax and phone or e-mail their family. In other words, they can feel at home.
Sheltering those without a home is one of the corporal acts of mercy, and at the heart of the Year of Mercy called by Pope Francis. By making seafarers feel welcome and at home when they visit a port, AoS chaplains and ship visitors are helping you to live out this call of the Gospel.
When Pope Francis met our regional co-ordinators in Rome in 2014 he urged AoS to “be the voice of those workers who live far from their loved ones and face dangerous and difficult situations.”
It’s only thanks to your continuing generosity, no matter how small, that our port chaplains and their teams of volunteers can do this. And they know how even the smallest gesture can have a big impact on the seafarers that they meet.
Martin Foley, AoS GB National Director
PS. In this Year of Mercy, AoS port chaplains will visit hundreds of ships during the Easter season to provide a welcome and give seafarers the chance to celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord in prayer, perhaps joining a local parish for Mass, as well as whatever practical help they may need.
Thanks to your generous Easter donations this corporal work of mercy will reach countless seafarers.
Martin (middle) with Bishop Alan Hopes at the opening of the centre with Bob Jones from MNWB.
We rely on voluntary contributions to sustain our work. Please make a donation today and help us continue our work supporting seafarers