Life at sea can be hard work, being isolated and away from the comfort of family and friends for extended periods of time. And with the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to wreak havoc around the world, seafarers remain vulnerable in several ways. On Sea Sunday (11 July), the Catholic community is called to pray for and support people who live and work at sea.
Seafarers play an important role in the distribution of food and medical supplies to countries around the world, especially places where these are most needed during this time of the pandemic.
Stella Maris Australia (formerly called Apostleship of the Sea) is the official maritime welfare agency of the Catholic Church, providing spiritual, pastoral and practical support to seafarers.
Stella Maris says that while some countries have offered to vaccinate seafarers, 'many countries do not recognise seafarers as key workers and thus they have not been prioritised to receive the vaccine as they continue their work.'
There is also the risk of seafarers’ physical and mental wellbeing being affected significantly. Here at home and overseas, a lingering sense of fear and hopelessness has sadly become commonplace. Many seafarers have had to work aboard ships beyond the expiry of their initial contracts, and with air travel disrupted, flights between traditional crew change hubs have been reduced. And while they are unable to return home, in many cases they are also unable to leave their vessel due to the risk of being infected in the countries they dock in.
The theme for Sea Sunday 2021 is "Courage! I am with you." During this difficult time, we are reminded of Jesus' words to his apostles: 'When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”' (Matthew 14: 26-27)