The men and women of the Apostleship of the Sea
To celebrate the National Day of Prayer and remembrance for mariners and people of the sea, we are featuring an online highlight of stories that provide a sampling of the lives impacted through the work of the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) pastoral teams in the USA which include reflections by two seafarers or merchant mariners. These stories are not meant to be exhaustive of the varied services by the local AOS teams nor of the experiences of seafarers but do provide a glimpse into the reality of the lives of people we serve who make their living being on the seas.
The Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) is an international Catholic maritime ministry which is coordinated by AOS office of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers, Vatican. In episcopal conferences with maritime territories, the Apostleship of the Sea provides essential ministry to seafarers, fishermen and all those who travel by sea and the waterways.
In the USA, the AOS bishop promoter guides the work of the AOS national director in providing oversight to the maritime apostolate “without prejudice to the rights of the local Ordinary”.1 The local bishop is “responsible for determining the most suitable forms of pastoral care for maritime personnel”2. Pastoral outreach is being carried out by priests, deacons, religious and laity in Sixty- two American ports representing fifty dioceses. There are also countless local volunteers who dedicate themselves to the maritime ministry. These men and women are to be praised because of their commitment, dedication, and hard work in serving seafarers and all people of the sea regardless of race, color or religion through ship visiting, extending a warm welcome and presence, bringing reading materials, affording a place to relax at a seafarers’ center, transportation, access to modes of communication, advocacy for seafarers’ rights and dignity and other practical assistance. Often, maritime ministry is an ecumenical effort with other religious denominations.
There are an estimated 1.2 to 1.5 million seafarers worldwide. The majority of seafarers are Catholic. The Apostleship of the Sea reaches out to these faithful who are often away at sea for weeks or months on end, who could not access regular parish services because of the nature of their work and lifestyle. Spiritual support which include availability of the sacraments such as Mass, confession, or simply praying and celebrating with seafarers have been appreciated by seafarers.
The Apostleship of the Sea in the USA, a national membership organization headed by Fr. Sinclair Oubre as its president, provides important maritime ministry through the cruise ship priest program and other services. Fr. Oubre is also AOS diocese director for the Diocese of Beaumont.
Join us in thanking God for the good work of the AOS chaplains and pastoral team who serve the seafarers and all people of the sea. Let us remember in prayer the seafarers and those who travel by sea and the waterways, that through the protection of Our Lady of the Sea, they will be safe in their voyages and join their families.
Sr. Myrna Tordillo, mscs,
AOS national director