Perth Deacon and former Director of the Stella Maris Seafarers Centre has shared his experience with Journey Radio Editor Max Norden.
Deacon Patrick was speaking in celebration of Seafarers Sunday, with more than 28,000 merchant ships visit Australian ports each year.
These ships are crewed by some 300,000 seafarers, with many of these mariners coming from developing countries and are employed because they represent cheap labour for the ship owners.
An appeal being launched this Sunday across parishes aims to raise awareness of the needs of seafarers – the often unseen, vital workers that keep our economies going, but often at great personal cost to themselves and their families.
The appeal highlights that even in the best of times, seafarers suffer harsh and demanding conditions aboard the ship.
Having signed on for contracts lasting eight to 10 months, seafarers suffer from boredom, loneliness, constant noise and vibration, and the ever-present fear of suffering an injury or sickness while at sea.
Every year, thousands of seafarers are injured and many die, many having taken their own life.
Last year, more than 250 seafarers were hospitalised in Australia because of a medical emergency suffered on board a ship.
A father of six, Deacon Patrick has spoken to The Record in 2012, recalling how in early 2007, shortly after he was ordained to the permanent diaconate, he received a call from the then-Vicar General, Mgr Brian O’Loughlin asking if he would consider the post of Stella Maris Administrator.
The centre had been closed and left empty for two years. The whole place was a wreck when he saw it, Deacon Patrick said, with graffiti and rotting carpet throughout the building.
Getting it back to a functional state was tough but re-establishing connections with seafarers was no-less difficult.
He had expected to be working exclusively in a parish – visiting parishioners, doing baptisms and burials, and assisting the liturgy.
Now retired from his role at Stella Maris, Deacon Patrick serves at his home parish of St Francis Xavier in Armadale, living with Carol, his wife of 40 years, in the neighbouring town of Roleystone.
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