Seafarers Center makes a merry Christmas for sailors far from home
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.
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.
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.