The Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has designated the second Sunday in July each year as Sea Sunday. It calls for prayers for seafarers on July 12 this year. The Catholic Commission of Japan for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move also invites you to pray for seafarers and their families.
Stella Maris: Serving seafarers for 100 years
On October 4, 1920, in Glasgow, Scotland, a priest and several laypeople met to discuss ways to assist crews of ships anchored in Glasgow Harbor. It was the beginning of AOS (Apostleship of the Sea), which became an international organization of the Catholic Church. This year, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of AOS.The AOS World Congress was to take place in Glasgow in October, but it has been postponed to next year due to the new coronavirus pandemic. Even so, this centenary of AOS (also known as Stella Maris, Star of the Sea) is a good opportunity for more people to know about this apostolate. AOS activities currently take place in 322 ports in 56 countries.
Shipping has changed greatly over the last 100 years, but the vocation of AOS has not changed since its foundation because pastoral care has always meant to serve people in all aspects of their humanity ̶ the personal, the social, the professional and the spiritual.
Several international organizations have played important roles for seafarers. One is the International Labor Organization (ILO: 1919) which is involved in their life and work. Another is the International Maritime Organization (IMO: 1948), which deals with issues such as maritime safety, and a third is the World Health Organization (WHO: 1948), which is concerned with health. The work of these specialized institutions has improved the lives and working conditions for seafarers but guarantees for their welfare and basic needs are still insufficient.
At the beginning of the 20th century, seafarers’ lives were unpredictable, harsh, and unprotected. Today, conditions on many ships are better, but crews are away from their families and homes for a long time, and loneliness is a great problem with fewer crew members on board and shorter stays in port. Also, the increased speed of navigation, lading and unlading makes work even more stressful.
It is often reported that it is difficult to secure a truly human living and working environment because of disparities depending on one’s nationality, unfair treatment or abandonment by the company, death, bullying and harassment, or even being taken hostage by pirates and armed robbers.
The important thing now is to visit and meet the sailors. They look forward to chatting with visitors and spending time with others. Building trust gives them help with problem solving and provide social, legal, and spiritual support.
This year the shipping industry faces unprecedented challenges due to the new coronavirus pandemic. Continue to pray for seafarers and their families. May Our Lady, Star of the Sea (Stella Maris), protect them from all danger.
From a prayer of Pope Francis at Lampedusa
July 8, 2013 (unofficial translation)
Mary, Star of the Sea,
Once again, we turn to you
to find refuge and peace
and implore your protection and help.
Mother of God, our mother,
Look kindly on all who each day face the dangers of the sea,
May each family be guaranteed the food they need to live,
May God’s creatures be respected,
And may we serve the peace of people. Amen.
July 12, 2020
Mario Michiaki Yamanouchi
Bishop in Charge
Catholic Commission of Japan
for Migrants, Refugees and People on the Move