by Greg Watts
Wojciec Holub, Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) port chaplain to Tilbury and the Thames, recounted a conversation he recently had with a captain.
‘I asked him, when do you sleep? He smiled and said he slept when he could. But how you can you sleep with all the noise from containers and cranes? I said.
‘He replied, “You get used to it. I know seafarers who cannot sleep without noise, so when they go home, they sleep close to the fridge.”’
This month we celebrate Sea Sunday, when the Church asks us to pray for seafarers and support the work of AoS, whose chaplains and ship visitors provide practical and pastoral help in ports around the coast of Britain and on cruise ships.
Most of us probably never give a second thought to seafarers. They seem remote from the concerns of our daily life. Yet without them we would not have many of the things we take for granted.
If you have a computer or a car, if you enjoy oranges or coffee, or if you have just bought a pair of shoes or a settee, then chances are that these items arrived by sea.
AoS port chaplains, such as Wojciec, often provide a lifeline to seafarers, who can spend months at sea and, because most ships don’t have internet access, they have no contact with their family back home.
Wojciec supplies mobile phone top up cards, transports seafarers to and from the Tilbury seafarers’ centre, or takes them to local shops. And with many seafarers being Catholic, he can sometimes arrange for Mass to be said on a ship.
And he provides a listening ear if a seafarer is feeling lonely, having difficulties with other crew members, or worried about his family back home.
Bishop Paul Mason of Southwark, who has served as a cruise ship chaplain and became the AoS bishop promoter earlier this year, said, ‘The support AoS offer up and down the country to all seafarers is by and large unseen, just as those to whom they minster can be unseen. It is vital work that brings practical help, prayer, sacramental care and fellowship to so many.’