Being a seafarer is a tough job at the best of times.

You are away from home for months, you work long hours, and you face possible accidents at sea.

There is now an alarming rise in cases of seafarers abandoned by shipowners: left in distant ports without money, support, or the means to get home.

Catholic charity Stella Maris (formerly called Apostleship of the Sea) is one of the few maritime charities with chaplains who carry out ship visits. They work with seafarers on the frontline.

On Sea Sunday (today, 14 July)  let us pray for seafarers, fishers, and the work of Stella Maris.

Deacon Joe O'Donnell, Stella Maris’ Senior Area Port Chaplain for Scotland helped an Indian crew recently; they had not received their wages for several months and were abandoned in Troon.

"We supplied groceries, clothing, and free mobile phone SIM cards so they could talk to their families back home," he said.

"The crew were also under a huge mental strain, with no money, no means of getting home and absolutely no idea what their future is.

"So we offered them pastoral support and reassurance. Following our intervention, the crew was paid and returned home."

Service to strangers

What happens on global shipping routes affects us all because much of the food and other products in our shops arrive on ships: everything from fish and fruit to computers and cars.

We rely on seafarers and fishers perhaps more than we realise.

This year's Gospel for Sea Sunday (Mark 6: 7-13) emphasises the importance of service and hospitality for strangers as a sign of Christ's love.

In this reading, Jesus instructed the disciples to take almost nothing with them - so they had to rely on the providence of God on their travels - and the generosity of the people they would stay with on the journey.

Those people would be strangers to them - but the disciples were reliant on their hospitality.

When seafarers arrive in a foreign port, they are strangers, often thousands of miles from home. Stella Maris’ chaplains and volunteer ship visitors welcome them, listen to their concerns, and help provide what they need.

The Stella Maris teams answer Jesus' call to give hospitality to the stranger.

They put their faith into action.

Let us remember especially those seafarers who are sailing through conflict zones and those who have been abandoned in distant lands.

Article written by Greg Watts. To find out more about Sea Sunday, visit the Stella Maris website. To donate go to The Vatican has issued a message for Sea Sunday which you can read in full here: