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Christmas Appeal 2014

                 At Christmas seafarers often find themselves far from home in a strange land, just like Mary and Joseph did when they arrived in Bethlehem. Seafarers tend to be family men, who go to sea in order to provide for their wives and children back home, typically in poorer parts of the world. 
                 Christmas is a time when they feel particularly lonely. They miss their loved ones and know they won’t see the excitement on the faces of their children when they open their presents.
                 This is why Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) chaplains and ship visitors in ports around the country will be trying to make Christmas special for seafarers. If possible, Mass will be celebrated on ships, or seafarers will be taken in the AoS mini bus to Mass in a local parish.
                 Chaplains also organise carol services on board and sometimes 
give cribs and calendars to the crew. Thanks to the generosity of some parishes and schools, chaplains are given shoe boxes with gifts such as toiletries, socks, woolly hats, and books, which chaplains and their teams deliver to seafarers. 
Apostleship of the Sea chaplains bearing Christmas gifts to seafarers

                 The boxes are often opened at sea with the seafarers sitting in a circle, opening them one by one, just to make the event last a bit longer.
                 “Gifts are not expected. When we give our shoeboxes they are received with thanks but often with an air of disbelief that someone actually cares,” said Father Colum Kelly, AoS Immingham port chaplain.
                 He added that he also holds back some of the boxes for seafarers who want to celebrate the Orthodox Christmas in January.
                 Sometimes volunteers will dress up as Santa Claus and distribute presents. “I always say that seafarers, because of their marginalised existence, tend to expect nothing, but appreciate everything. We’ve had some fairly emotional visits with seafarers going into raptures when they see Father Christmas approaching the gangway and realise he is coming to see them,” said Tony McAvoy, Tees and Hartlepool AoS chaplain who has recently retired.