Stella Maris area port chaplain for the north of England Anne McLaren
Far away at sea while their nation is torn apart

A message from Stella Maris ahead of Sea Sunday (July 10)…

Stella Maris area port chaplain for the north of England Anne McLaren has heard from seafarers how the war in Ukraine has ripped families apart.

When a Ukrainian seafarer was transported Hull Royal Infirmary after breaking his back on the cargo ship he was working on, Anne visited him.

As the seafarer spoke little English, she brought in a Ukrainian interpreter and discovered he was from Kherson. His house had been bombed, and his family were still sheltering in the city. 

For the several months he was in Hull, Anne and Stella Maris volunteers visited him regularly, bringing him clean clothes, toiletries and SIM cards, so he could contact his family back home. 

Other Stella Maris port chaplains have reported similar experiences.

John Fogarty was asked by a shipping agent to visit a ship in Sheerness, Kent, and meet the Ukrainian captain and first officer.

“We sat together in the captain’s mess, and I said to the captain, ‘How are you?’ He looked at me with tears in his eyes, unable to speak. And then the first officer said, ‘We are at war.’ It was a very painful moment as the reality of what he said really hit home.

“After a few moments, the captain said, ‘I don’t know where my wife is.  We don’t know if our children are well.’  We all sat together in silence but in solidarity for some time.”

John gave the captain and first officer mobile phone SIM cards, which he always carries with him when visiting ships.

Both Ukrainian and Russian seafarers are shocked and horrified by what they are seeing and hearing about the war, said John.

“I spoke to the Russian captain of a vessel with 13 Russian crew members. His mother was half Ukrainian, and he was almost apologetic, as were the crew members, simply for being Russian. It struck me that there may be many more seafarers feeling the very same.”

Just before Christmas, East Anglia regional port chaplain Julian Wong facilitated a last-minute day trip into London for the Ukrainian captain of a container vessel.

In March, the captain brought his vessel back into Felixstowe port. When the captain said his wife and daughter were fleeing Ukraine due to the war and desperately seeking accommodation in Poland, Julian told him that Father Edward Pracz, Stella Maris’s Poland national director, had opened a refugee centre in Gdynia for seafarers and their families.

The captain immediately rang Father Edward, who confirmed he could accommodate the family. He then contacted his wife and daughter who made their way to Gdynia to join 50 other seafarers and their families under Father Edward’s wing.

Some weeks later, the captain’s ship was scheduled to call in Hamburg, so arrangements were made for the captain to be reunited with his family in port. The captain’s family drove nearly nine hours across Poland and Germany to Hamburg, where port chaplain Monica Döring from the Stella Maris seafarers’ mission in Hamburg had arranged overnight accommodation for them.

The next morning, Monica drove them into the port to be on the quayside as the captain guided his vessel into port.
They were then reunited after seven months apart and were able to spend a joyous day and night together as a family again before the vessel departed the following day.

July 10 is Sea Sunday, when we are asked to pray for seafarers, who work in hazardous conditions, all types of weather, and even during war, to bring us many of the goods we rely on in daily life. 

We are also asked to support Stella Maris and its global network of port chaplains and volunteer ship visitors. Their work is hidden, but for seafarers, far away from home and in a foreign land, they are a true lifeline and Good Samaritans.

To make an online donation to support this important ministry, visit

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