Apostleship of the Sea (AoS): 100 years of service to the seafarers
Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) also called Stella Maris of Cape Town is announcing the 100 years of Stella Maris in the service to seafarers this 04 October 2020. The Apostleship of the Sea is the pastoral care of the Catholic Church to maritime people. This apostolate began prior to 1900 by various Orders or Congregations like the Augustinians of the Assumption, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and Jesuits catering for the spiritual, social, and material welfare of visiting crews in the ports of London, Bootle, Montreal, New York, New Orleans, Sydney. But it was on 04 October 1920, when Apostleship of the Sea was revived after the 1st World War and officially founded in Glasgow, Scotland. In South Africa, the port of Durban was the first to have the Apostleship of the Sea opened by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in 1923. On the following years, OMI missionaries extended the apostolate in the port of Cape Town, which was given to the care of the Archdiocese of Cape Town and in 1996 was given to the Scalabrini Fathers to this date. In one hundred years of service and ministry, the Apostleship of the Sea is present in 334 ports with 227 port chaplains in 59 countries.
Since 01 February 2019, Fr. Rico Talisic, cs is the port chaplain of the Apostleship of the Sea in the port of Cape Town. Along with the National Director Mr. Nicholas Barends and 6 volunteers namely Mr. Anthony Erispe, Mr. Gerard Assam, Mr. Ms. Astrid Castenfelt, we delivered AoS service to the Seafarers such as (a) ship visitation, (b) hospital visitation, (c) transportation to and from the ship, (d) liturgical/spiritual services, (e) distribution of reading material and religious articles, (f) socialization and sports, (g) legal assistance, (h) networking, and (i) ecumenical cooperation.
In this centenary celebration. AoS Cape Town lunch a special project for seafarers in particular for the foreign fishermen like Filipinos, Indonesians, Vietnamese, Burmese, etc that dock in the port. The aim of this project is to protect and empower the seafarers. To achieve such aim, we launched on December 2019 the following programs: (a) food program for various religious or cultural activities and sport events, (b) medical mission program, (c) tour program for those who finished their work contract, (d) clothing program, and (e) communication program, which are funded Ace Foundation through Scalabrini International Migration Network. As of July 2020, the program has reached 1,491 beneficiaries. This project is in network with 4 other Scalabrini Fathers chaplains in the ports of Kaohsiung, Taipei, Montevideo, and Manila.
The AoS Cape Town is never been committed and fervent in our pastoral care for the seafarers. Unfortunately, the unprecedented Covid-19 pandemic has put it into hold. As a result, tens of thousands of seafarers need our services, but we cannot do much because of the national lockdown of the country and around the world. In this crisis, Pope Francis released a video message on 17 June 2020 expressing his gratitude to seafarers and fishers for their important contribution in feeding humanity despite the risks involved. The Pope assures them that they were not alone and forgotten, but close to him in his thoughts and prayers and in their chaplains and AoS volunteers. (to read more visit: https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2020-06/pope-francis-stella-maris-message-coronavirus-trials.html)
Seafarers are not excepted from the effects of Covid-19. According to United Nations agency there were between 150,00 and 200,00 seafarers stuck on ships because of lockdown measure. They have finished their work contract but cannot get off the ship to return to their homes. Besides, several countries have prohibited crew change to prevent the virus from spreading. Hence, majority of them continue to work which caused an increase of personal fatigue, isolation, homesickness and mental stress. While there are an accountable number of seafarers stranded in hotels, dormitories, and seaman’s center who are applying or waiting for their flights. In response to this crisis, Apostleship of the Sea around the world and other non-government organization ministering the seafarers provided food parcels, financial help, and airtime/data to communicate to their family. In the port of Cape Town, Fr. Talisic, has provided 709 vouchers of R100 airtime to Filipinos, Indonesian, Taiwanese, and Kenyan seafarers/fishermen. He also distributed masks, hand sanitizers, toiletries, and medicine for common sickness to them. Then there are several seafarers who contracted the virus.
Lastly, the pandemic has caused the postponement of the AoS centenary celebration of this year to 04 October 2021. In placed to actual celebration, a couple of webinars will be held on October to commemorate it. AoS Cape Town will continue to serve the seafarers to the best of our abilities and we ask all faithful to say one Hail Mary for the seafarers on 04 of October 2020, asking the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Star of the Sea.
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Fr. Rico Talisic
(Port Chaplain and Scalabrinian Missioner)