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Will you get to Christmas Mass this year?

Being able to attend Mass to celebrate Christmas is something most Catholics take for granted. 

However, if you are a seafarer, the chances are that you will be hundreds or thousands of miles away from a church. 

When you work at sea your local community is your fellow crew members and your village or town is the ship.

For Catholic seafarers this means going for long periods without receiving the sacraments. Helping seafarers to nourish their faith when they arrive in a port is something Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) port chaplains and ship visitors have been doing for over 90 years. 
When Jacqueline McGuire (pictured), an AoS ship visitor, visited a ship in the port of Dundee she spent time chatting to four Filipino seafarers.

Three were on 12-month contracts, while the other seafarer was on a seven month contract. “One of the seafarers had already been on the ship for nine months and was due to go home in December,” Jacqueline said. “They were clearly homesick and looking forward to seeing their loved ones.” 

AoS Dundee ship visitor Jacqueline McGuire with seafarers

Jacqueline supplied MIFI units which provide free WIFI so the seafarers could get internet connection to contact their families back home. She also distributed rosary beads, hats and religious reading material. 

The seafarers were very grateful, but they asked for something else: to go to Mass. The last time they had been to Mass was when they were back in the Philippines. 

The next day, Jacqueline took them to Mass at St Andrew’s Cathedral in Dundee. “That desire to go to Mass was very humbling,” she said.

When Jacqueline asked one of the seafarers if everything was okay, he said he missed his family and his two-year-old daughter, who doesn’t really know him. 

“However, he was really happy today to be able to speak via Skype with his wife and young daughter for the first time in four months,” said Jacqueline.

“He told his wife how excited he was to be going to Mass. He said they always go every Sunday as a family back home.” 

Jacqueline’s story is just one example of the way AoS port chaplains and ship visitors often provide seafarers with their only link to the Church. 

Cardinal Vincent Nichols visiting Tilbury port with AoS Tilbury port chaplain Wojciech Holub

Speaking after the annual Stella Maris Mass at Westminster Cathedral in September, Cardinal Vincent Nichols (pictured ship visiting in Tilbury) praised the work of AoS.

“An astonishing percentage of the things sold in our shops in the UK arrives by sea, underlining our dependence on those who work on these ships. To care for them is a profoundly Christian thing to do. It is also very important for the wellbeing of the country. 

“For many of the ships, the support from port chaplains is hugely important in terms of seafarers’ religious belief and practice. Really this is great work that goes on.” 

This great work that AoS does can only happen because of the generosity of its supporters. And because AoS is a small charity, the smallest act of generosity can make a big difference to the lives of seafarers.

PS. Thank you for your prayers, interest in our work and generous donations during this Year of Mercy. Thanks to your support we have been able to visit thousands of ships and help countless seafarers know the Church is alongside them. Thank you and may the Lord bless your kindness.