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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Mission to seafarers seeks to meet rise in demand for on-board services

 

A Merseyside maritime charity is stepping up efforts to deliver church services on board vessels after reporting a rise in demand for spiritual support from crew members.

The Liverpool Seafarers Centre (LSC) offers wide-ranging support to 50,000 seafarers who pass through the River Mersey Ports and berths every year, including church services, sacraments and blessings directly on-board vessels.

The news comes shortly ahead of Sea Sunday – an annual celebration held on July 8 – when Christian churches of all denominations remember and pray for seafarers, giving thanks for their lives and work.

During Sea Sunday, charities such as the national Apostleship of the Sea, The Mission to Seafarers and the Sailors’ Society as well as non-denominational groups such as Sea Cadets carry out fund-raising events, hold parades, and run awareness campaigns about life at sea.

LSC is an ecumenical partnership between the Apostleship of the Sea (Liverpool) and The Mersey Mission to Seafarers, both body’s being independent of the national and international Missions.

John Wilson, chief executive of the LSC, said Britain has a heavy dependency on the invisible army of brave seafarers with 95 per cent of everything we consume transported by sea.

Liverpool is expected to welcome 58 ships each carrying between 120 and 1,350 crew from now until September.

However, many seafarers on board cruise vessels are only permitted up to two hours shore leave making it difficult to attend church services.

Crew on merchant vessels are precluded from attending church services, even when in port due to operations on board.

Mr Wilson said: “Many of these crew are people of faith, often desperately in search of spiritual nourishment, and we are witnessing an increase in requests for church services to be delivered on board. This affords seafarers the opportunity to practice their faith in a way many of us take for granted.

“Most often crew are seeking to attend Mass, receive the holy sacrament, a blessing or even counsel from a priest. Life goes on while these people are at sea including major life events such as births, deaths, marriages, divorce and bereavement.

“In the first few weeks of 2018, we have delivered six services. This is an increase on the same period last year, when we delivered a total of 12 services throughout the year.

“We welcome seafarers from all over the world including countries like Bangladesh, Indonesia, India and the Philippines. We can provide them with spiritual support aligned to whichever Christian denomination they follow – Catholic, Protestant, Methodist.

“The important point is that we are here to support their spiritual and emotional needs in equal measure to their physical and more practical requirements.”

Liverpool Seafarers Centre’s roots date back to the 19th century and is funded by donations from parishes as well as general donations. It recently introduced a new port levy inviting shipping lines to contribute directly to service provision which is now extending across North West ports including Silloth, Workington, Barrow and Glasson.

Archbishop Malcolm McMahon of Liverpool said: “Sea Sunday gives us the perfect opportunity to recognise and give thanks for the invaluable work of the Liverpool Seafarers Centre in providing spiritual, emotional and practical support to seafarers from across the world throughout the year.

“They provide for the needs of those who are far from home and loved ones for long periods of time and are often in port for only a few hours. The ability to respond to those needs immediately is vital and the work of the Centre merits both our prayerful and practical support.”