Commemorative centenary envelopes illustrate vital seafarers’ work

08 Oct 2020

By The Record

The Stella Maris centre in Fremantle is Perth’s local branch of the Apostleship of the Sea, an institution that celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. Photo: Eric Martin.

Australia Post has last month released a commemorative $1.35 postage-paid envelope with illustrations highlighting the vital work that occurs in ports throughout the nation in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Church’s ministry to seafarers through the Apostleship of the Sea.

Bishop Bosco Puthur, Bishop Promoter for the Apostleship of the Sea Australia, said he was thrilled to learn that Australia Post had agreed to showcase the ministry’s work.

“Our Stella Maris chaplains, workers and volunteers are very excited that their dedication is being recognised in this way, but they ultimately want this to be a moment that highlights the critical role of the seafarers they serve,” he said.

“This anniversary comes at a time when seafarers are facing particularly challenging times. COVID-19 restrictions mean some men and women can’t even set foot on dry land for months on end. Tens-of-thousands of people are also working without any sense of security due to expired contracts.”

The newly released Apostleship of the Sea commemorative, postage-paid envelope, which will cost $1.35, features a historical image of an Australian port and a photo of Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli visiting his local Stella Maris centre in 2018. Photo: Supplied.

Australian’s attention was recently refocussed on the plight of seafarers with the disappearance of the Gulf Livestock 1 ship at the beginning of September when it was hit by two typhoons off the coast of Japan.

Bishop Puthur said the maritime disaster, involving two Australian crewmen, had made the news in Australia only because of the local connection and there have been dozens of shipwrecks in 2020 that went largely unreported.

Apostleship of the Sea national director Roslyn Rajasingam paid tribute to John Wall from Australia Post and Christina Siciliano, a member of the Stella Maris Melbourne committee, for pursuing the Australia Post envelope initiative.

Deacon Patrick Moore, the Director of Stella Maris in Fremantle, said that he was delighted by the recognition but was also aware that “it is somewhat ironic that this wonderful initiative on the part of Christina Siciliano comes at a time when it is very difficult for Stella Maris to do much at all to assist seafarers”.

“Since our Centre in Fremantle was closed in March, because of the pandemic, we have tried to respond to requests from seafarers to acquire items of shopping for them and to deliver them to the ship,” Dcn Moore told The eRecord.

Deacon Patrick Moore of Perth’s Stella Maris centre has been busy coordinating the assembly and distribution of some 1400 care packages to ships docked at Fremantle during the pandemic. Photo: Eric Martin.

“With monies generously donated by an American maritime foundation we have been making up ‘care packs’ to give to the crew and to date, our volunteers have packed over 1400 small bags of goodies and delivered them to over 60 ships.

“We were also able to help a young Filipino officer who had been serving continuously on his ship for over 16 months,” he added.

“In the end, he collapsed and was picked up from his ship by helicopter and taken to Fiona Stanley Hospital. Stella Maris helped him with new clothing and generally supported him until he was well enough to go home to Cebu.”

While the Apostleship of the Sea ministry, which supports Stella Maris centres around the world, was founded in 1920, the Church’s work in port ministry in Australia goes back three decades earlier, when members of the Society of St Vincent de Paul began visiting ships in the Port of Melbourne in 1889.

The Apostleship of the Sea is the largest ship-visiting network in the world.

In Australia, the ministry typically includes crews visiting Stella Maris centres, the celebration of Masses and other worship services and the provision of care packages, including items like toiletries and phone cards.