Stella Maris, the Catholic Church’s outreach to seafarers and fishers and their families, will strengthen its global network to become even more effective advocates of the people of the sea.
Delegates attending the charity’s 25th World Congress in Glasgow, Scotland from October 3 to 5 reaffirmed their shared faith and values to stand with the people of the sea in the challenges they face at sea and on shore.
This shared faith stirs us into action, said Stella Maris UK CEO and Europe regional coordinator, Martin Foley. Stella Maris exists to love the people of the sea, its staff, volunteers, and all the people with whom the charity works.
“We strive to serve the people of the sea, the maritime sector, the Church, and all stakeholders, with integrity. We have great strength in the diversity of our teams globally. Being from the communities we serve, and working and living alongside them, gives us an enhanced understanding of the challenges they face” he said.
Nearly 200 port chaplains, regional and national coordinators, ship visitors and volunteers from 25 countries, plus officials from the Holy See, attended the Congress which marked the charity’s 102nd anniversary where Stella Maris was founded in Glasgow.
Use of technology
We need to communicate the work we do more effectively, in shining the light on injustices and abuses taking place within the maritime and fisheries sectors, including abandonment of seafarers, modern slavery and trafficking, said Martin.
“In order to do this, we need more than anecdotes, so we will continue efforts to promote the use of a common Stella Maris database that records our activity on ships, fishing vessels, hospital visitations, and elsewhere.
“The database, which was set up by Stella Maris UK, and is being currently used in the UK and countries including Kenya, South Africa and in Europe, will be transformative, and help us communicate better internally and with the media, industry regulators and authorities,” he added.
Stella Maris International Director Fr Bruno Ciceri said Stella Maris will continue its support for the seafarers, fishers and families affected by the war on Ukraine.
As the war drags on, Stella Maris chaplains are working to support the immediate needs of these seafarers and their families.
The charity’s Ukraine national director Fr Alexander Smerechynskyy is involved in providing support to the families of Ukrainian seafarers. Fr Alexander and his colleague Rostyslav Inzhestoikov have been working alongside seafarers and are being a source of good counsel and support to their families when their loved ones are away at sea.
“However, there is now increasing demands for mental health support from Ukrainian seafarers and their families suffering trauma, worry and fear during the ongoing war, so the charity is putting in place a new programme of medium to long-term support from professional psychologists in Ukraine.
“The platform will provide a programme of remote, ongoing psychological consultation for those most in need,” said Fr Bruno.
Fr Bruno added that Stella Maris is greatly encouraged by the message Pope Francis sent on the occasion of the World Congress, which urges the charity to never waver in highlighting issues affecting seafarers and fishers, and to voice-out challenges faced by the maritime community.
* To see more photos go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/apostleshipofthesea/albums/72177720302598251