On Wednesday September 22, at Westminster Cathedral, the Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) organised an awareness day to promote its cruise chaplaincy programme.
Seven priests who will be undertaking cruise chaplaincy over Christmas on P&O cruise ships met to discuss the benefits of their work and the possible difficulties they will experience at sea, especially over the Christmas period, which can be very lonely for seafarers away from family and loved ones.
For cruise chaplains, the focus of their work is centred on the crew of these ships, who are away from home for up to nine months, working long hours seven days a week. Often the crew are glad to have an independent ear to share their concerns and pray and celebrate the sacraments. Chaplains also celebrate Mass for passengers and lend a friendly ear to all who sail.
In 2009 AoS provided 174 days of cruise chaplaincy free of charge. Its hope is to expand this over the next few years. Neil Oliver, P&O cruise director, was himself present and described the research done surrounding the needs of cruise ship crew, and the benefit P&O finds from having a chaplain on board for both passengers and crew. This supports the need for Apostleship of the Sea to continue to provide cruise chaplains and to further extend its outreach.
There has been a continual growth in the number of people in Britain opting for cruises. In 2009 the figure was more than 1.5 million, and these numbers are expected to continue to grow despite recession.
The Apostleship of the Sea, AoS, is a registered charity and an agency of the Catholic Bishops’ Conferences of England and Wales, and Scotland. It is wholly reliant on voluntary donations to continue its work.
Ninety per cent of world trade is carried by ship, and some 100,000 seafarers visit British ports each year. They are commonly away from home for nine to 12 months at a time, suffering loneliness, depression and even exploitation. They also have to work in gruelling and often dangerous conditions.