WASHINGTON—The National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea is May 22. The day is observed in conjunction with National Maritime Day in the United States of America, which has been celebrated since 1933 to honor those who serve as merchant mariners and to recognize the benefits of the maritime industry. A Mass in observance of Maritime Day will be celebrated Sunday, May 22, at 10:00 a.m., at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in the Crypt Church. The Mass is sponsored by the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) national office and the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). Bishop Joseph Estabrook of the Archdiocese for the Military Services USA will be the main celebrant and homilist.
Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah, Georgia and AOS Promoter, encouraged dioceses to mark the national day by remembering the men and women of the sea in the Sunday homilies on May 22, and by including special petitions in the Prayer of the Faithful during Mass. When Mass is celebrated on a day other than Sunday the text for the Votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Star of the Sea is encouraged.
“In a special way this year, let us remember those who lost their lives at sea, those who perished in the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and the families left behind,” Bishop Boland said.
Ninety percent of the world’s goods are transported by sea and the waterways. There are approximately 1.2 million seafarers worldwide in 10,000 commercial ships and maritime vessels.
Apostleship of the Sea is a worldwide Catholic maritime ministry for the spiritual and practical assistance to seafarers, fishermen, their families and all those who work and travel by sea and the waterways. In the USA, AOS chaplains, associates and volunteers carry on this ministry in 62 maritime ports representing 50 dioceses.
Among the people who participate and benefited from this ministry is U.S. Merchant Marine Veteran Captain John D. Smith of Daphne, Alabama.
“It is so important that the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for seafarers and all people of the sea be celebrated in the USA every year,” Captain Smith said. “We should never forget their sacrifices, lives lost in war and in peace, and the continuous contribution of merchant marines to their families and nation, as we seek to overcome old and new dangers, including piracy, wars, natural disasters, economic privation, political unrest and hot spots around the oceans of the world in which we navigate.”
Captain Smith has travelled all over the world and while commanding the SS ElizabethLykes during Operation Desert Storm, founded the Save Our Ships Campaignwidely regarded to have led to the passage of the Maritime Security Act of 1996. It was during the campaign that he became in contact with the Apostleship of the Sea. In 2003 he became the mariner representative on the Board of the Apostleship of the Sea of the USA (AOSUSA).
Amy and Andy Middleton, a husband and wife team, are both volunteers of AOS- Baltimore since 2009. After completing a maritime ministry training program in Houston, a two- week ecumenical program in February of 2009, they returned to Baltimore to put into good use their training. Amy is administrative director while Andy is operations director of the Stella Maris International Seafarers’ AOS Center, which is located in Dundalk, Maryland. They work closely with Msgr. John L. FitzGerald, AOS chaplain and the center’s executive director.
“Since joining the AOS ministry I have had the opportunity to visit with international seafarers and share time with them talking about their families and their time at sea. I have even had the most blessed opportunity to reunite family members who traveled far along the seas and from other states just to see each other here in the Port of Baltimore. When I welcome others, I welcome Jesus and share his love with them through this hospitality ministry,” says Amy.
At Stella Maris, a center for maritime ministry in Destrehan, Louisiana, just outside of New Orleans, three Catholic deacons and two volunteers have served the people of the sea for over 10 years. Stella Maris covers the maritime ports within the metropolitan New Orleans area and provides spiritual services and practical support to seafarers and fishermen.
They go up on ships to offer communion service at seafarers’ request and to bless the ship especially if a seafarer has died on board. The center provides the seafarers with a chapel where they can pray and other services can be conducted. Practical services include facilitating access to communications such as providing them with cell phones and cell phone cards for the seafarers to contact their loved ones back home. Some seafarers go to the center during their leisure time to play basketball or pool or to watch television. In the next few weeks new software will be installed to allow seafarers to see their families and talk to them on the center’s computers. Occasionally, they also provide assistance to foreign mariners in dire situations, such as the recent case of six Filipino seafarers who were held for months in the United States by the U.S. Coast Guard as material witnesses in a pollution case.
The USCCB established the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea on November 14, 2005 to encourage Catholics in the country to support, remember and pray for merchant mariners/seafarers, fishermen, port personnel and those in the maritime industry.
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