Stella Maris (formerly known as Apostleship of the Sea) is the largest ship-visiting network in the world, and the official maritime charity of the Catholic Church.
Seafarers often have to work away from their families and local communities for nine to twelve months at a time. Across the world, Stella Maris aims to provide a ‘friend in port’ for seafarers and fishers, to provide practical, pastoral and spiritual support to them and to stand alongside them to ensure their rights are upheld. The charity extends the hand of friendship and welcome to seafarers, fishers, and cruise ship crew. Roughly 50% of seafarers are Catholic, and many come from the Philippines, Poland and Goa and Kerala in India. Long months at sea mean they rarely get to Mass or receive the sacraments. Stella Maris’ chaplains and ship visitors make arrangements for this to happen on board whenever possible or arrange to take seafarers to the local parish church, if circumstances allow. During their port and ship visits, Stella Maris chaplains and ship visitors also provide seafarers and fishers with faith resources, such as the Stella Maris magazine, prayer books, Bibles and rosaries, to help seafarers maintain their faith at sea. In times of crisis, such as a death at sea, Stella Maris chaplains are there to pray with the crew, bless the ship and offer comfort and support.
Pope Francis has on many occasions remembered and prayed for seafarers, fishers and their families, and for the work of Stella Maris. In June 2020 he said, “Know that you are not alone and that you are not forgotten. Your work at sea often keeps you apart from others, but you are close to me in my thoughts and prayers, and in those of your chaplains and the volunteers of Stella Maris.”