The Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) is the Catholic Church’s outreach to seafarers. It was founded in Scotland in 1922 and is now active in almost 100 countries around the world, under the overall direction of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.
AOS in England & Wales united with its counterpart in Scotland in June 2005 to form one entity for Great Britain. It is an independent Catholic charity, wholly reliant on voluntary donations, under the patronage of Our Lady ‘Stella Maris’. It is also an official agency of both Catholic Bishops’ Conferences, with Rt Rev Tom Burns serving as Bishop Promoter in England & Wales, and Rt Rev Peter Moran serving as Bishop Promoter in Scotland.
Ninety-five percent of all world trade is carried by ship, but the conditions of seafarers themselves are often hidden from us. Seafarers typically spend nine months away from home at a time, suffering from loneliness, depression and even exploitation as they bring us the goods we use and consume every day. Globalisation, the pressures of rationalisation and the trend to register ships under so-called flags of convenience all mean that seafarers’ rights and intrinsic human dignity are often denied. One million seafarers visit British ports each year, and 60% of all seafarers are Catholic.
AOS deploys Port Chaplains (both ordained and lay) and ship visitors to greet seafarers to our shores as brothers, in the name of Christ and his Church. They provide seafarers with practical and pastoral assistance, regardless of creed or nationality, and give Catholics the opportunity to receive the sacraments. AOS is also involved in providing chaplains for cruise ships, and works ecumenically to provide drop-in centres in ports where seafarers can relax, pray and contact loved ones back home. In all of its work, AOS is guided by its four key aims of mission, solidarity, welfare and hospitality.
Evangelisation, properly understood, is central to the whole ethos of AOS. By welcoming needy seafarers to our shores, and by providing for their practical and spiritual needs, AOS is taking Christ’s love to them. AOS Port Chaplains and ship visitors make Bibles, prayer booklets and devotional aids available to help Christian seafarers live their faith more deeply at sea, and, by demonstrating Christian charity to all seafarers, they also provide a powerful witness to the Gospel for seafarers who may not have encountered it before.
For more information or to make a donation please contact AOS on 020 7588 8285, at [email protected], or by writing to AOS, Herald House, Lamb’s Passage, Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8LE.