A number of port chaplains from across Canada from the Apostleship of the Sea gathered this week in Montreal for their annual conference, organised by their National Office. Bishop Thomas Dowd, their bishop promoter in Canada, challenged them to ‘Be fishers of people, those on the sea’.
Chaplains from Montreal, Trois Rivière, Oshawa, Toronto & Vancouver, together with overseas delegates, gathered to review the ministry and plan for future growth. It was also an occasion to celebrate the work of Deacon Derek Skelton, a former ships engineer, who for more than 15 years, had served as port chaplain in Oshawa.
Bishop Dowd noted that ‘Part of our challenge within the Apostleship of the Sea is to have this ministry better known’, the conference was also an opportunity to put this call into practice with the launch of their new website www.apostleshipofthesea.ca
The conference heard a number of moving accounts from chaplains. Fr Andrew Thavam, port chaplain in Montreal, told of a moving remark of a seafarer he’d had a long conversation with, ‘if I hadn’t met you today, I would have ended it’.
Deacon Dileep Athaide, the AoS Vancouver port chaplain recounted his ship visits on Ash Wednesday and Palm Sunday when seafarers had had the rare chance to reconnect with their faith.
Despite the challenges of the ministry Deacon Alban Soares who begun ministry in the port of Oshawa after only a year said this was a ‘most fulfilling ministry’
The conference also heard from John Green, from AoS Great Britain and their experience of renewal to extend the ministry to more seafarers and their twinning programme to share this experience and their capacity with other countries including AoS Canada.
Regional coordinator, Karen Parsons, underlined the vital role of praying for each other to support what is often an isolated ministry.
Bishop Dowd summed up the priorities of the future work of the AoS in Canada, ‘Give our brothers and sisters the opportunity to be involved in something that is so important’. The key to this outreach he noted was ‘One thing I’ve noticed is your enthusiasm, you folks care; you care about the ministry, you care about seafarers, you care about the future of the ministry’.
Notwithstanding the challenges he urged the delegates to go ahead with this ‘labour of love, a labour to communicate God’s love to others’.
The conference concluded considering a number of recommendations; to improve their identity, to extend the ministry into new ports, to attract more volunteers to visit more ships and to raise much needed funds.