2018 Annual Ministry Report Apostleship of the Sea
Ship arrivals at the Port of Mobile (Port) have steadily increased over the past two years. Based on data provided by the Port, arrivals increased from 1,446 in 2015 to 1,623 in 2017 a 12% increase. The activity is expected to continue in 2018 as the impact of increased capacity at the container terminal increases. There are approximately 20 seafarers per vessel which translates into 32,000 seafarers visiting our city last year. Some 40% (13,000) of all arriving seafarers are Filipino, the majority of whom are Catholic. In addition the largest national groups of seafarers are Ukrainian, Polish, Russian, Chinese and Indian.
The ministry started the year with a few personal changes as we welcomed Deacon John Archer to the ministry and said goodbye to one of our long time ship visitors. Deacon Archer has been mentored by Fr. Lito Capeding and the previous Ministry Deacon Joe Connick. Fr. Lito and Dcn. Archer both attended the 2017 NAMMA conference in New Orleans which provides ministers an update on trends and events from the shipping industry and seafarer welfare. This ecumenical conference also provides an opportunity to meet and share with other ministers from throughout North America. Through a grant provided by the AOS (Apostleship of the Sea) office Fr Lito was able to attend the 2017 International Conference in Taiwan, which brings together Catholic seafarer ministers from ports around the world.
The primary function of the ministry is to visit vessels and provide needed ministerial and social services to the crews that we encounter. Our team has visited some 400 vessels during the past year.
The center of Catholic life is the Eucharist, Fr Lito and staff celebrated Holy Mass on board 12 vessels during the past year. Mass includes music where possible as well as time for sharing and visiting of the crew.
Pictures of our visit are always a must.
During our visits the temporal needs in addition to the spiritual needs of crews are evaluated. In addition to the purchase of sim cards, which provide local access for cell phone the crew’s most frequent request if for transportation to local shopping primarily Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Bel Air Mall. Crew escort services primarily provided by Ms. Alma Braggs has transported some 2,000 crew members to various locales this past year.
In addition to the ship visits the ministry must interact with others in the Archdiocese, around the port and the city. This year we have focused on improving awareness of the ministry and the plight of the seafarer. Some of our major activities this past year have included;
· Interview with Rob Herbst for Catholic Week, Ministering to ‘invisible people’ August 10, 2017
· Lent and advent booklets have been provided for crews reflection during their time away from church communities
· Transportation to Sunday mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
· Collection of bibles at the Cathedral for distribution to crews
· Meetings with International Ministries (Baptist Ministries) to improve collaboration of ministry services
· Active involvement in the Propeller Club for updates on port activities, networking, and improved communication with port stakeholders
· Annual Maritime Memorial Mass on May 22, 2017 which included a ride aboard the Duck Boat to lay wreathes for those members of the maritime industry who died the last year
· Formation of a Ministry Advisory Council to provide feedback, industry expertise and to assist in setting priorities for services to and with the entire port community
. Collaboration with the Williamson High School Maritime Academy to collect and distribute Christmas snack bags to the seafarers.
· Distribution of some 300 T-shirts to select crews during the Christmas season. Shirts were provided through the generosity of a Propeller Club grant
· Welcome crew and lay chaplain of the USS Philippine Sea to make them aware of all Sunday services during their 2017 Mardi Gras visit.
The most unique services we have provided this past year have been with a Mexican crew from the city of Veracruz. This crew of seven men are onboard a vessel and had not been paid for their services. We became aware of their plight in December, 2017 when we received a phone call received from a concerned port worker. Some of the crew arrived in October of 2017 others in November. The last four months we have made regular visits to the ship and crew to ensure that they receive appropriate provisions and care. We have provided spiritual support by providing bibles and spiritual reading materials, transportation to mass at the Cathedral and Our Savior, an excursion to a Posada with the Hispanic community and coordination of outreach from Hispanic community especially Ms. Olgar Villar and Fr. Jose Mesa SJ. Our transportation services have allowed the crew to shop for provisions, send money home when some cash was received from the ship owner, attend a Mardi Gras parade and in general not feel like they are in prison on the ship.
As of this writing three crew members have returned home the remaining four await their turn. While some payments have been made the crew still awaits payment of their full wages. We will continue to work with NAMMA partners (The Seaman’s Church Institute and International Transportworkers Federation (ITF)) to ensure the seafarer’s interests are represented.
Christmas Eve dinner before Mass at the Cathedral and a visit to Mass in Spanish at Our Savior.
If you could assist us a few hours each month by visiting ships (climbing required); driving crews to stores for shopping or mass; answering phone calls or maintaining our web presence at home, please contact Fr Lito Capeding (Lcapeding@mobarch.org) or Deacon John Archer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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