Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
Sea Sunday is observed this Sunday in the universal Church. It is a day designated to pray for seafarers, those who work in the maritime world and those in the Apostleship of the Seas.
The maritime world and everything that surrounds it is a very hard-working environment. Seafarers and crewmembers on cruise ships spend many months away from home, working long hours under very difficult conditions, earning meagre salaries, with very little or no benefits at all. They often must endure price gouging by unscrupulous persons when they come ashore. Those who are involved with this industry know the difficulties that those who labor on board the ships face. You may have been on a cruise and noticed the hard-working men and women who served you for long hours but perhaps never stopped to think about their salaries or the working conditions in the very same ship that you were enjoying. Most international trade is done on the backs of hard-working people who spend many hours away from their families working hard on-board merchant ships. Many of us have probably seen the movie “On the Waterfront” depicting the life of stevedores working at the port featuring a very young Marlon Brando with Karl Malden playing the role of a priest whose parish includes the docklands.
One of the forces trying to humanize this difficult environment is the Catholic Church through its Apostleship of the Seas. It started almost 100 years ago in Glasgow, Scotland when some Catholics in riverside parishes who were concerned about the welfare of seafarers organize to visit the ships. Today the Apostleship of the Seas is present across 55 countries in 261 ports, including Port Everglades and the Port of Miami.
The Stella Maris Center at the Port of Miami was founded a long time ago by Fr. Jose María Paz. It closed in 2008 during the crisis and reopened in 2013 as a mission of St. Patrick Catholic Church. It is open 7 days a week to provide a home away from home for seafarers. It is staffed by volunteers, most of them parishioners, who dedicate their time and effort to welcome and nurture those who are far away from home. Mass is celebrated at the Stella Maris Center every Saturday at 12:30 PM. It is your support and your prayers that make possible this outreach of our parish.
A couple of weeks ago Pope Francis received port chaplains and volunteers who were participating in an International Conference and addressed the following words to them:
“Since more than ninety percent of world commerce is transported by ships of various kinds, the dependence of our society on the maritime industry is indisputable. Without sailors, the global economy would come to a standstill; and without fishermen, many parts of the world would starve. I would ask you to convey my esteem and encouragement to the sailors and fishermen whom you meet, many of whom work for lengthy periods of time, thousands of miles away from their native land and their families.
The life of a sailor or fisherman is not only marked by isolation and distance. At times, it is also painfully affected by shameful experiences of abuse and injustice, by the snares of those engaged in human trafficking, and by the extortion of forced labor. At other times, they are not paid their rightful salary or are left behind in distant ports. In addition to threats from nature – storms and hurricanes – they must face human threats, such as piracy or terrorist attacks. They cross the world’s oceans and seas, landing in ports where they are not always welcome.
As chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris, you have been entrusted with the mission of presence, bringing the Good News of the Lord Jesus to the complex and varied world of seafaring. Your daily visits to the ships enable you to encounter people in concrete situations, at times serene, at other times anxious or even deeply troubled. With compassion and discretion, you give them a chance to pour out their hearts. This is the first and most precious service that you provide, above all to those who have few similar opportunities. Your ministry to sailors and fishermen is above all one of listening to them and to their material and spiritual needs. “Listening helps us to find the right gesture and word which shows that we are more than simply bystanders”.
Listening can then lead to action. I encourage you and the chaplains and volunteers of Stella Maris to redouble your efforts to confront issues that are all too often the fruit of human greed. I am thinking of human trafficking, forced labor and violations of the human and labor rights of so many men and women who live and work on the seas. Through your service, you can help restore to these persons their sense of dignity…
Let us remember that “men and women who are made new by the love of God are able to change the rules and quality of relationships, transforming even social structures. They are people capable of bringing peace where there is conflict, of building and nurturing fraternal relationships where there is hatred, of seeking justice where there prevails the exploitation of man by man. Only love is capable of radically transforming the relationships that men maintain among themselves” …
Pope Pius XI wanted the Stella Maris apostolate to extend its mission to the oceans and the shores of every continent. May the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, renew this pastoral service in accordance with the needs of our time.”
May our parish continue to provide a home away from home for the people of the sea, through our support of the Apostleship of the Seas and the Stella Maris mission as we show the loving face of Christ and His Church to seafarers, crewmembers, port workers as well as law enforcement and government agencies workers at the Port of Miami.
Fr. Roberto M. Cid