Every year churches around the world celebrate Sea Sunday. It is a day for people to come together to pray for seafarers and fishers, and thank them for the vital role they play in all of our lives. This year, Sea Sunday is on 11 July, but you can also choose to celebrate seafarers and fishers any day of the year that suits you.
The Sea Sunday 2021 Appeal
Watch Bishop Hugh Gilbert, our Bishop promoter for Scotland, reading our Sea Sunday Appeal for 2021
Sea Sunday is organised by Stella Maris, the maritime agency of the Catholic Church. Its teams of chaplains and ship visitors in ports in the UK and around the world provide practical help and pastoral care to seafarers and fishers.
Seafarers are extremely important to this country. Ninety per cent of goods that come here arrive by ship. That is much of the food we eat, the equipment in our hospitals, our phones, cars, petrol, just about everything. Seafarers work long shifts, seven days a week, often for nine months at a time. In these times of pandemic, many haven’t been home for over a year. They are far away from their family and loved ones, always at sea or a stranger in a foreign land. And what happens when something goes wrong? When they are exploited or abused? When they are abandoned by their employer or their wages unpaid?
This was the case for Jimaster, a 22 year-old seafarer who got stranded in Uruguay during the pandemic. He had joined a fishing vessel when his father died, so that he could provide for his family. But his wages had never been paid and he was confined to his ship, with only a small amount of rice to eat and limited water. The temperature dropped and he had no winter clothing. Two of the crew came down with a fever and he thought he would die.
But a Stella Maris chaplain came to the ship with food, clothes, phone cards, and medical supplies. The chaplain worked with the port authorities and ship owners and eventually managed to get Jimaster home to his family in the Philippines. He believes that, without Stella Maris, he would most likely be dead. For hundreds of seafarers like Jimaster, a ship visit from Stella Maris provides critical support.
Stella Maris chaplains and volunteers are working in ports up and down this country and across the world. This weekend they will be out visiting seafarers as usual. They welcome the stranger, in line with Jesus’s instruction in today’s Gospel. In the good times, they provide seafarers with faith resources, warm clothing, SIM cards so they can talk to their families back home, and help them to get to confession or Mass, or to the local shops. And in the bad times, as in Jimaster’s case, they do so much more.
But they can’t do it without your support. Your prayers and generous donations ensure Stella Maris can continue to welcome the strangers in our ports, and be there for seafarers like Jimaster when they need assistance. You can help in two ways. Firstly, please remember seafarers and fishers in your prayers. Thank God for them and the vital role they play in our lives, often working in difficult, hazardous conditions and harsh weather. Secondly, please could you kindly give a donation? Your gift will help Stella Maris chaplains welcome seafarers who may be stranded and who may not have seen their families for months. Your support will be a generous expression of God’s love, giving help to these key workers and hospitality to strangers.
You can donate in one of three ways:
- Use the giving envelope provided
- Text SEA to 70460 to donate £5
- Give via the website: www.stellamaris.org.uk/donate
If you are a taxpayer, please complete the Gift Aid section to increase your donation by 25 per cent.
Gospel Meditation (Mark 6: 7-13)
In this Sunday’s Gospel we hear that Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs, but they were to take almost nothing with them – so they had to rely on the providence of God on their travels – and the generosity of the people they would stay with on the journey. Those people would be strangers to them – but the disciples were reliant on those strangers’ hospitality. This requires faith.
The teaching that God’s love is present in welcoming strangers and neighbours is a strong belief of many cultures. The divine lives in each of us, and when we welcome each other, we welcome God, and Jesus, the Son of God. This is the welcome of the Church to all. A call to the Church today is to welcome all and be enriched by the variety of prayer, friendship and worship which all can bring.
According to Jesus’ instructions, if people didn’t welcome or listen to the disciples, they were to walk away, shaking the dust from under their feet. This gesture represents both cleansing and Jesus’ displeasure at those who have rejected these strangers (his disciples) – we would surely not want that for ourselves.
When seafarers are in foreign ports, they often rely on the strangers who visit them to support them – to take them to the shops, to give them internet access, to take them to a Church for Mass or confession. Often, they don’t even speak the local language, making things even harder.
Sea Sunday is the day our parishes pray for seafarers and fishers and support Stella Maris (Apostleship of the Sea) – the Catholic charity that provides that welcome for seafarers in ports in this country and around the world. The chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris listen to seafarers’ stories, help to provide what they need, and answer Jesus’s call to give hospitality to the stranger.