Reach out, communicate, and stay on course
Pastoral letter to our Filipino seafarers on the celebration of International Seafarers’ Day
The sea is your life. Our life here on earth is our voyage. There are times as you sail, you experience or encounter waves that are rough and violent. It is terrifying. But no matter how rough the sea may be, it returns to reassuring calmness in its majestic vastness.
Life has its ups and downs. It presents many cruel trials and costly troubles. Yet we go on in life. We set our sights on the shore, on our port.
Whether on the water or on dry land, our life can be rough sailing. We are continuously battered and bruised by this unforgiving Covid 19 pandemic. These lockdowns, quarantines, and closing of companies are added storms to our earthly journey. But remember, even if the waves are big and the winds are so strong, we have to raise our sail and keep our hands on the deck.
Along the sea of life; placid or turbulent, deep or vast, when a “storm gathered and it began to blow a gale” ( Mark 4:37), remember to do these three essential imperatives:
Stay on course
First, our goal is our port; not only to dock to our destination but to get there safe and sound, with our goods complete and whole. The key is to reach out.
It is always a long voyage. There is separation from your loved ones and surely loneliness sets in. Weather can be cruel. Works can be difficult. When these creep in, don’t isolate yourself. Acknowledge the current situation you’re in and initiate to reach out to your trusted shipmate(s). Reach out to us.
You have the Church, especially the Apostolatus Maris on your side, ready and willing to assist you. You are not alone in your journey. We are with you, working for you and welcoming you at our chaplaincies. You have us and we are reaching out to you.
My dear brothers and sisters, let us reach out to our seafarers with compassion and kind understanding. They are our modern-day heroes, not to be falsely labeled as coronavirus carriers. They should be accepted, assisted, and accommodated.
A stranded male seafarer was housed by Apostolatus Maria in Manila. He was young and wanted to come home. But he had strong reservations, worried, and afraid. He confided to his chaplain, “padre, when I went home to my province before, I was always very much welcomed. Everyone was nice, warm, and happy to see me.” With tears rolling down his cheeks he continued, “but now Padre, with this Covid19 pandemic, being in the cruise ship makes me the suspected coronavirus carrier. Everyone avoids me. I feel that we, the heroes, have become villains.”
Our modern-day heroes remain to be our heroes. They are humans. They are our essential, frontline workers. Aren’t their sacrifices and services put food on our tables, and medicines as well as supplies at the hospitals that have reached us?
Now is the time to make them feel that we have not forgotten and abandoned them. We are reaching out to them with care, affection, and respect.
Second, our desire is to hear from one another to know what is happening and how each other is doing. We want to be informed and updated. Sometimes we worry. Most of the time, we miss them. We want to see, speak, and listen to them. So, whenever possible and able, we must communicate.
Let’s give them good news such as: “we are safe” or “I am doing good and missing you so much.” Communicate with affection. Assure them of your fidelity and that you will never fail them. Don’t let your conversations focus on financial expenses, material needs, or insufficient budgets. Let it center on inspiring family stories and the children’s exemplary achievements.
Be vigilant about fake news which will only aggravate their stress and distract their focus from work. Avoid uttering abusive or offensive words. Let your communication be truthful, hopeful, and always end on a positive note.
The depths and vastness of the sea is mysterious, and at times, even dangerous. The unpredictable weather can make the waves unstable or uncompromising. There can be violent storms, strong winds, or heavy rains. Do everything to stay strong, to remain sound and secure so that with your communication, there will be a sigh of relief, comfort, and satisfying words of “thanks be to God you are safe, and we will see each other again.”
Our dear seafarers, always communicate with us, your Apostolatus Maris. Connect with us. We are always here to listen and to be of help.
Lastly, we put our hearts into our works. We always do our best. We opt for the success and satisfaction of our superiors. We don’t want to fail them, but to make them proud of us, their seafarers. And they find us very responsible, trustworthy and dedicated to our assigned tasks. So, it is to stay on course.
It is our hope and prayers that our journey would be smooth sailing. So, we must be focused and firm. We should stay steady and stay on course.
The ship faithfully follows the course. There is no deviation, no short cuts or cutting trips. It is direct and will cruise straight to the required destinations. So like the ship, stay on your line, on your deck, on your course.
As you fare out into the distant shores and ports, you will surely face trials and even temptations that will test your resolve, your principles. And when confronted with all these, be faithful and stay on your course. You may be beset by storms of seasickness, separation and sadness but don’t waver, don’t be perturbed. Stay on course and remember Jesus, the captain of your soul is telling you “take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid“ (Matthew 14,27).
Our dear seafarers, the Philippine Church with her Apostolatus Maris, journeys with you. You have our prayers for safety, strength and sound health. We appreciate and very much grateful for your sacrifices and services to our country. Remember in our hearts and minds: you are special and essential, you are our modern-day heroes and hope. As you venture forth to the open seas,
Stay on course
Bishop of Balanga and
CBCP Bishop-Promoter of Apostolatus Maris Philippines