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Port chaplains gear up for Christmas

 Christmas has come early for Britain's Catholic port chaplains as they are now visiting merchant ships and giving lonely seafarers a taste of true festive spirit. This is a hectic time for chaplains and ship visitors deployed by the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) up and down the country. Seafarers who have to spend Christmas thousands of miles away from family and loved ones back home can often feel isolated and also spiritually deprived at this time of year, and they often turn to AOS port chaplaincy teams for pastoral and practical help. Like his counterparts in other parts of the country, Donald McEwen, Port Chaplain to Felixstowe and the other ports in East Anglia, has brought some cheer to seafarers by distributing olive cribs from Bethlehem and religious calendars for 2006 featuring major events in the life of Christ in icon form. Meanwhile, Tony McAvoy, Area Chaplain in the North-East of England, has held a carol service on the bridge of a 'Ro-Ro' ferry in Teesport attended by 70 seafarers, port staff, volunteers and supporters. Elsewhere, other AOS chaplains and ship visitors have distributed Christmas presents donated by local parishes to grateful seafarers, arranged for Masses to be celebrated onboard ships, and given out thousands of festive chain decorations with special messages sent in by AOS supporters. Commodore Chris York, National Director of AOS, said: "Christmas is such a happy time for most of us, but can be unbearably lonely for seafarers who may be working at sea or docked in a foreign port many miles away from home on Christmas day. Our chaplaincy teams recognise them as members of our one human family, and try to brighten up their Christmases with the light of the Infant Jesus - who alone gives joy and meaning to our lives. It is a great privilege for us to share the joy of Christmas with seafarers, but it is also our duty because we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to those who help to transport so many of the gifts we will give and receive at Christmas." Source: AOS