Cherie Blair to launch Sea Sunday appeal

Cherie Blair, herself the granddaughter of a seaman, is to launch  the Apostleship of the Sea’s annual Sea Sunday appeal next week.  Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) is a Catholic charity providing practical and pastoral care to all seafarers in need, regardless of race, colour or creed. Mrs Blair is one of the most  has supported the charity for some years.  

The launch will take place at Tilbury Seafarers Centre next Thursday, where Mrs Blair will meet the local chaplain, Fr Patsy Foley and seafarers using the Centre’s facilities.

Most seafarers are away from home for up to a year at a stretch, so their visits to ports give them a brief opportunity to telephone home using the Centre’s affordable telephone facilities.  Often, they have left pregnant wives and the only way they get to see their newborn babies is via the webcam on the Centre’s computers.  It is then hoped that Mrs Blair will have the opportunity to accompany the chaplain onboard ship when he is visiting seafarers to hear for herself the issues they deal with on a daily basis.

The current economic downturn has had a detrimental effect on some sectors of the shipping industry.   AoS is seeing increasing numbers of ships laid up, often due to the ship owner’s inability to settle bills.  On occasions, this has left the crew stranded onboard, with no food, fresh water or pay.  They are often unable to leave the ship because there is no guarantee that the ship-owner will repatriate them to their home country.  They are usually too frightened to call in The International Transport Federation for fear of being blackballed in future – often their entire extended family is depending on that one income to provide education, healthcare and food.

Sea Sunday is Apostleship of the Sea’s annual appeal, which will be taken up in Catholic Churches on Sunday 12 July.  Although it is an agency of the Catholic Church, AoS receives no funding from the Church or any statutory funding and is totally dependent on voluntary donations.  
The theme of this year’s appeal is “Our Call to Serve” and it is led by Anne McLaren, the chaplain to the Port of Hull.  She takes her responsibility to uphold and defend all seafarers who are exploited and denied their human rights very seriously and has urged all those attending Mass to give generously. 

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