Sea­far­ers Cen­ter makes a merry Christ­mas for sailors far from home

The Dundalk Eagle - - FRONT PAGE - By NI­COLE ROD­MAN nrod­[email protected]­pub.com

The Apos­tle­ship of the Sea Min­istry, lo­cated at the Stella Maris In­ter­na­tional Sea­far­ers Cen­ter on Dun­man­way, made it an es­pe­cially merry Christ­mas for home­sick sailors docked at the Port of Bal­ti­more this year.

Each year, the min­istry, headed by Mon­signor John Fitz-Ger­ald, dis­trib­utes Christ­mas shoe boxes filled with presents to sea­far­ers docked at the nearby port over the hol­i­days.

The Apos­tle­ship of the Sea dis­trib­uted more than 2,000 boxes this year, stuffed with cold weather gear, snacks and more. Tele­phone cards and card­board Na­tiv­ity scenes were also dis­trib­uted. The items are col­lected by Catholic churches, Knights of Colum­bus coun­cils and oth­ers from the com­mu­nity. The boxes were stored in the cen­ter’s Chapel of

Hope un­til dis­tri­bu­tion to the sea­far­ers.

Col­lect­ing and dis­tribut­ing the boxes is no easy feat. It is a process that be­gins each year well be­fore the Christ­mas sea­son.

“We start the pro­gram in Septem­ber by con­tact­ing churches, schools, our monthly news­let­ter donors, mar­itime busi­nesses and mar­itime as­so­ci­a­tions,” ex­plained cen­ter ad­min­is­tra­tive aid Dot­tie Devine.

Do­na­tions con­tinue to come in even as boxes are be­ing dis­trib­uted.

“We keep re­plen­ish­ing the boxes as the ship vis­i­tors take them to the ships,” FitzGer­ald told the Ea­gle, “And al­most ev­ery day more boxes ar­rive at the cen­ter.”

The cen­ter’s di­rec­tor of op­er­a­tions, Andy Mid­dle­ton, drives across the area pick­ing up do­na­tions and de­liv­er­ing them to the cen­ter.

Many times, FitzGer­ald noted, the boxes are the only presents the sailors re­ceive.

“The Sea­far­ers of­ten do not re­ceive any other Christ­mas gifts,” he ex­plained.

The Apos­tle­ship of the Sea min­istry, a Catholic min­istry de­signed to pro­vide ser­vices to sea­far­ers across the world, was founded in Scot­land in 1920.

Here in Dun­dalk, the Stella Maris In­ter­na­tional Sea­far­ers Cen­ter on Dun­man­way in the Dun­dalk Vil­lage Shop­ping Cen­ter was started by FitzGer­ald in 2002.

In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing Christ­mas boxes, the cen­ter of­fers a va­ri­ety of ser­vices to sea­far­ers, in­clud­ing Masses and Con­fes­sions. They also of­fer a space out­side of the ship for sea­far­ers to re­lax, use com­put­ers, watch tv, so­cial­ize or pray.

Fitzger­ald, him­self a re­tired Navy and Marine Chap­lain, and his staff en­deavor to pro­vide emo­tional and spir­i­tual as­sis­tance to the sailors as well.

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit http://www.aos-usa.org/or­call443-845-7227.

COUR­TESY PHOTO

The Apos­tle­ship of the Sea Min­istry in the Stella Maris In­ter­na­tional Sea­far­ers Cen­ter in Dun­dalk has col­lected more than 2,000 Christ­mas shoe­boxes for sea­far­ers.

BY VIR­GINIA TERHUNE

Mon­signor John FitzGer­ald, left, ac­cepts do­na­tions for sea­far­ers docked in Bal­ti­more from Siony Pla­ciente and Nestor Paloma, who are vol­un­teers at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Fuller­ton, in this De­cem­ber 2016 photo.

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