By Lydia O’Kane
For many people, this Christmas will be a time for family and friends to get together, whether it be going to Church, opening presents or sitting down to a turkey dinner.
But Christmas is also a time when people are away from loved ones and face the prospect of being alone on this holy day.
This December 25th, there will be about 1 million people working at sea on merchant ships, as well as those working in fishing rather than enjoying the comforts of home.
Practical and pastoral care
The Catholic charity Apostleship of the Sea has 227 port chaplains in 334 ports in 59 countries worldwide and will be on the front line providing practical and pastoral care to all seafarers this festive season.
“Ninety five per cent of world trade comes by sea, so all these lovely presents we’re going to open on Christmas Day, most of those will have come by sea. And yet, these people are often forgotten on Christmas Day, working away from family and loved ones,” said John Green, the charity’s Development Director.
Isolation at sea
Despite modern technology, he explained, one of the big problems seafarers face is isolation and this is where they can often receive support, especially at this this of year, from Chaplains who are “there for the seafarer to speak about their needs.”
With many seafarers knowing that they will be on board a sea vessel this Christmas, John noted that one of the most important things that can help both Chaplains and seafarers is prayer. As they go out on a dark Christmas evening onto a ship, it will be comforting for them to know that “there is a sea of prayer behind them”, he said.
Christmas a time for giving
Christmas is known as a time for giving and often people will give that bit extra to a charity or indeed to someone in need. The Apostleship of the Sea is one of the charities that has been on the receiving end of the generosity of others. “We have a tremendous response from countries around the world: our parishes, our schools and individuals, wrapping up an old shoe and putting in some toiletries”, said John.
He added, that those at sea are really taking on board the good will of people at Christmas. So, although these seafarers will not make it back home for this holy season, there will be the joy in knowing that they are not forgotten as they open presents on Christmas Day prepared by parish communities around the world.