We may not recognise this description of Glasgow but it must surely have been the case at the end of World War I because in 1919 it saw the foundation of the Knights of St Columba and, in the following year, the birth of the Apostleship of the Sea (Stella Maris). Both organisations have grown beyond Glasgow to be witnesses of faith in action.

Apostleship of the Sea

The Apostleship of the Sea held its Mass for the beginning of its Centenary Year in St Andrew’s Cathedral on 26th September. Archbishop Tartaglia presided and was joined by Bishops Toal and Nolan, as well as chaplains of the Apostleship, ship visitors and volunteers, students from All Saints Secondary School and supporters, and a number of seafarers and their families. Music for the Mass was provided and supported by members of the St Mungo Singers and Dr Noel Donnelly on harp.

Archbishop Tartaglia, Bishops Nolan & Toal with some of the seafarers present

As Archbishop Tartaglia reflected in his homily, the founders of the Apostleship perhaps got more than they bargained for when they set it up to care for seafarers coming to Glasgow. It now reaches across the world. Its other (and original) name – Stella Maris – is one of the titles of Our Lady who reflects the light of Christ and is invoked by seafarers, and so the liturgy of the Mass, particularly the Gospel (John19:25-27), reflects this devotion to Mary who is given to us as Mother.

Seafarers, he said, have a unique relationship with God because they experience the vastness of the seas and are exposed to them in both their beauty and their ferocity. The Apostleship of the Sea tends to both spiritual and physical needs, with 4 chaplains in Scotland and 20 ship visitors, plus c.80 parish contacts.

Around 80 ships weekly are visited, and provision made for their crews to have Mass and the sacraments on board, if required by the quick turnaround of so many modern vessels. Support is also provided for their health and practical needs, and more recently action has been taken to support seafarers who are victims of modern slavery and trafficking.

The music of the Mass reflected the seafaring theme, with the opening hymn Hail Queen of Heaven, the Ocean Star and the recessional hymn Eternal Father, Strong to Save. At the Preparation of the Gifts, the words of Here I am, Lord were appropriate indeed to the work of the Apostleship.

Afterwards, in the Eyre Hall, there was time to talk over a lovely buffet, and also the chance to mark the birthday of Deacon Joe O’Donnell, the Senior Regional Port Chaplain in Scotland. We are looking forward to their 25th World Congress being held in Glasgow next year.