WASHINGTON – In anticipation of the National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea May 22, Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria, Texas, celebrated Mass May 20 in Washington to remember seafarers who have lost their lives at sea and to pray for all who work the sea and their families.
Mass celebrated in memory of mariners lost at sea, other seafarers and their families
"We pray for the men and women upon the seas today, that they may find safe passage and safe harbor ... and know our love and support each and every day," the bishop said in his homily during the Mass he celebrated in the Crypt Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Bishop Cahill is the bishop-promoter of Stella Maris, the Catholic Church's Apostleship of the Sea, whose chaplains and other pastoral workers reach out to mariners, fishermen, dock workers, workboat operators, cruise ships' passengers and crews, and their families.
He was assisted at Mass by Deacon Paul Rosenblum, port chaplain for the Diocese of Charleston, South Carolina.
The Catholic Church's national day of prayer for mariners falls on the same day as the U.S. National Maritime Day, which recognizes the maritime industry.
In his homily on the day's Gospel reading from the first chapter of Luke, Bishop Cahill reminded the congregation of the power of Mary's "yes" to God to become the mother of Jesus Christ his Son.
"What does that mean for us today?" Bishop Cahill asked. "Mary said 'yes' to God, and because of her 'yes,' all of human history has changed. The victory has been won. Our Savior was born and suffered and died and rose from the dead (for) the salvation of mankind. ... Mary teaches us that the heart purified by contemplation of God is more powerful than guns and weapons of every kind."
The bishop also talked about one of Mary's central messages to the shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, to whom she appeared six times in 1917, with the first apparition May 13 of that year. "My Immaculate Heart will prevail," she told them as revealed in the third secret of Fatima, officially released by St. John Paul II in 2000.
Bishop Cahill recounted how a year after St. John Paul II was shot in 1981 by a would-be assassin on the May 13 feast of Our Lady of Fatima, the pontiff visited Fatima to give thanks to Mary. "He believed her maternal love protected from the assassin's bullet," Bishop Cahill said. The Pope gave the shrine one of the bullets that hit him to encase in the crown of her statue at Fatima.
"We pray for ourselves that our hearts may be purified by contemplation of God, (that we) see the beauty of God in every human person we encounter, uplifting and upholding them to the mercy of God on this earth and beyond," the bishop said.
"We pray for God's blessing upon each of us that we have hope of eternal life and we (experience) the forgiveness of sins of a merciful God, and (that) our friends and families will inherit the promise of the Resurrection," he added.
After his homily he recognized representatives from the Gloucester Fishermen's Wives Association of Massachusetts who were in the congregation, including Angela Sanfilippo, executive director of the Massachusetts Fishermen's Partnership.
Bishop Cahill also noted that this year marks the 20th anniversary of the apostolate's ministry aboard cruise ships, where men and women minister to passengers and crew members.
Before Mass ended, Sister Joanna Okereke, national director of Apostleship of the Sea/ Stella Maris at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, thanked the congregation for coming to the Mass. 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.
The Apostleship of the Sea was conceived and developed in Glasgow, Scotland, as a Catholic port ministry by a priest and two laymen in 1920. During the centennial of the ministry's founding, it officially came to be called Stella Maris (Star of the Sea). Mary as Our Lady, Star of the Sea, is the patron of the apostolate.
The apostolate's centers around the world arrange for visits of clergy and others in ministry to seafarers when they are in port.
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, deacons, religious and lay ministers.
In November 2022, Bishop Cahill visited and toured the Stella Maris Seafarer Center in Baltimore as well as the Port of Baltimore to show his support for chaplains, the port director and volunteers tending to seafarers' spiritual and other needs.
"Our port ministers inspire all of us with their dedication and love for our seafarers and families. This especially was strong for me as I heard the care and love that our chaplains showed for some seafarers who were stranded at sea, or those who recently died," he said in a statement about his visit released by the USCCB.
Julie Asher is senior editor at OSV News. Follow her on Twitter at @jlasher.
More information is available at: http://www.usccb.org/stellamaris.