WASHINGTON — The National Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea is Tuesday, May 22. In the Diocese of Lake Charles, the blessing of the fleet and prayer service, will be Saturday, May 26, at the seawall behind the Lake Charles Civic Center beginning at 11 a.m., according to Deacon Patrick Lapoint, director of the Seafarers Center at the Port of Lake Charles, one of 53 maritime ports in 26 states and 48 dioceses where the Apostleship of the Sea is present. Father Rommel Tolentino, pastor of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, serves as the chaplain for the Seafarers Center.
The day is observed in conjunction with National Maritime Day in the United States of America, which has been celebrated since 1933 to honor those who serve as merchant mariners and to recognize the benefits of the maritime industry.
Apostleship of the Sea (AOS), is a worldwide Catholic maritime ministry that engages with seafarers, fishers, their families, port personnel and all who work or travel on the high seas, regardless of race, color or creed. The maritime ministry shows the Church's care and concern to seafarers who are often away from home for many months because of the nature of their work and lifestyle. A network of AOS port offices and Catholic chaplains provide spiritual and practical assistance that accommodate a seafarer's unique lifestyle and needs.
Priest chaplains, deacons, religious and lay people extend hospitality by providing a "home away from home" for seafarers. AOS has 10 Stella Maris centers, and over 100 chaplains and pastoral teams, including priests, religious, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers providing many services including: Mass, communion, confession and other sacraments, assistance to seafarers in distress, ship visits, transportation to visit business centers, a place to relax while on the port, computers with internet connection at the center, cell phones and phone cards as well as facilitating seafarers' access to services that others provide.
In the message addressed to chaplains, volunteers, friends and supporters of the Apostleship of the Sea, on Sea Sunday July 9, 2017, Peter Cardinal Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Integral Human Development Service, said, "In our daily lives, we are surrounded by and use many objects and products that at some stage of their journey towards us have been transported on vessels. It is difficult for us to imagine behind these objects the faces of the many seafarers who have secured a smooth sailing for the vessel to deliver these commodities to the port safely. We are invited to recognize and express our gratitude to this force of more than 1.5 million seafarers, who with their hard work and sacrifices are making our life more comfortable by transporting, between nations and across the seven seas, almost 90 per cent of the goods."
During World War II, some 6,000 American seafarers and more than 700 U.S. merchant ships fell to enemy action. No branch of the Armed Forces, except the Marine Corps, suffered a higher casualty rate.
Merchant mariners also played a vital role in the Korean Conflict, especially in the rescue of 14,000 Korean civilians by the SS Meredith Victory. During the Vietnam War, ships crewed by civilian seamen carried 95 percent of the supplies used by U.S. Armed Forces.
For generations, merchant marines and commercial sailors have assisted in the defense of the Nation. More than 5,000 merchant mariners supported Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom by serving aboard 157 ships moving essential supplies to the troops.
Since 1775, the United States Merchant Marine has served the U.S., helping America become a great maritime power. National Maritime Day pays tribute to these heroes who answered the call to serve when the Nation needed them most.
Today, merchant mariners continue to protect the U.S. homeland, including their support of American troops doing hazardous duty overseas.