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Mary, Star of the Sea, protects mariners and is guide for all, Bishop Cahill says

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Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria, Texas, center, offers prayers during the Maritime Day Mass in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception May 21, 2022. He is the U.S. episcopal promoter for Stella Maris, the Catholic Church's ministry to seafarers around the world. Pictured with Bishop Cahill, who was the main celebrant and homilist, are Deacon Paul Rosenblum, left, a regional coordinator for Stella Maris and port chaplain in the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, and Father Paul Hartmann, right, associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. (CNS photo/Julie Asher)

WASHINGTON — The congregation at the Maritime Day Mass in Washington May 21 prayed for “safe harbor” in heaven for mariners and other seafarers who died in the last year and for the protection of “our brothers and sisters” currently plying the waters aboard vessels delivering goods to the world.

Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria, Texas, the main celebrant and homilist for the Mass, said the church entrusts the care of all seafarers to Mary under one of her earliest titles — Star of the Sea.

She provides a light in a storm for all and “sets a course through these times to reach our safe haven in heaven … a safe harbor home,” he said in his homily, urging the faithful to always look to her for guidance and a source of joy.

The Mass was celebrated in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington in observance of the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea.

It was sponsored by the Stella Maris National Office of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Stella Maris is the Catholic Church’s ministry to seafarers around the world. Its network of chaplains and volunteers offers spiritual care and various services to seafarers, fishers, port personnel and their families.

Bishop Cahill is the episcopal promoter for Stella Maris in the United States.


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Concelebrating the Mass was Father Paul Hartmann, USCCB associate general secretary. A Milwaukee archdiocesan priest, he was appointed to the post in February and joined the USCCB staff in mid-May.

Deacon Paul Rosenblum, a regional coordinator for Stella Maris and port chaplain in the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina, assisted at the Mass.

In his homily, Bishop Cahill described St. Paul’s time at sea and how he depended on seafarers and their hard work as he journeyed “to the ends of the earth” to proclaim the good news. The apostle also was shipwrecked during a dangerous journey on his way to Rome. He and his companions washed up on the Mediterranean island of Malta.

Members of the crew pose with Bishop Koenig at the Port of Wilmington on April 5. The bishop celebrated Mass on board the ship.
Dialog photo/Joseph P. Owens

Paul had received a message from God that although their ship would perish, the group would survive, and just as they found “safe harbor,” Bishop Cahill said, Jesus Christ “takes us to the safe harbor of eternal life. All of us are invited to safe harbor home and we pray for others that they will have safe harbor home with Jesus Christ.”

As Mass came to a close, Sister Joanna Okereke, national director of the USCCB’s Stella Maris ministry, thanked the congregation for coming to the Maritime Day Mass, which is an annual liturgy but this year was the first in the last couple of years it was celebrated in person due to the pandemic.

A Sister of the Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus, she is assistant director for Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers in the USCCB’s Secretariat of Cultural Diversity.

Noting that 90% of all world trade depends on merchant seafaring, Sister Okereke said the presence of the faithful at the Mass and their prayers mean a lot to “the people who do this important work.”

In addition, more than 1.25 million seafarers work on board cruise ships, and 41 million people make their living from fishing.

Formerly called the Apostleship of the Sea, Stella Maris started in Scotland over 100 years ago.

Around the world, this Catholic apostolate assists seafarers in meeting their basic needs. Stella Maris centers around the world arrange for visits of clergy and others in ministry to seafarers when they are in port.

Many of these centers have an onsite-chapel for prayers services and Mass for crew members. The centers also provide workers with a shuttle to take them to local shopping centers, give them phone cards and/or the use of a free phone, computers and the internet.

They also have a lounge where crew members can watch television, read newspapers or magazines, play card games or simply relax.

“The mission of Stella Maris remains today as clear as a sailing ship’s mast silhouetted against the rising sun: to reach out to seafarers, fishers, their families, all who work or travel on the high seas and port personnel,” says a brochure posted about the ministry on the USCCB’s website, www.usccb.org.

In every major country, a bishop serves as the Stella Maris episcopal promoter, overseeing the work of the national director.

In the U.S., the Stella Maris ministry has a presence in 53 maritime ports in 48 archdioceses and dioceses in 26 states. There are over 100 chaplains and pastoral teams made up of priests, religious deacons and lay ministers.

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Editors: More information about Stella Maris can be found online at https://bit.ly/38gLv88.