A calling, service to seafarers
by Tom Reilly Chairman, Chaplains Ministry CC International Seamen’s Center
September 4, 2012
Chaplain Tom Reilly administering to seafarers on board the M/T Sigmagas.
The requirements to become a lay chaplain are to: have a desire to serve; be able to pass a federal security screening in order to obtain port access; and be physically fit enough to climb vessel ladders and gangways. While in training to become a chaplain, men and women are also trained to be Eucharistic ministers. On occasion Catholic chaplains conduct Communion services on-board the ship or bring Holy Communion to the seafarers. They also bring Bibles, rosaries and other religious items.
On behalf of the Corpus Christi International Seamen’s Center and at minimal cost to the seamen, chaplains also sell international telephone calling cards, SIM cards for cell phones or disposable telephones which help seafarer’s stay in communication with their family’s overseas. In this modern day of visual communication, the chaplains also lease MIFIs to the ship allowing several seamen at one time to connect via SKYPE with their families in their countries.
Chaplains may attend two-weeks of formal training in Maritime Law at the International Training Center in Houston at no cost to chaplains.
Some chaplains serve once or twice a week for 6-8 hours a day and others work additional days due to a shortage of chaplains. The ministry is composed of men and women (many of the foreign vessels have men and women on board.) When I first began this ministry, there were three Protestant and two Catholic chaplains –now, there are three Catholics and one Protestant. Unfortunately, when a chaplain is sick or on vacation there is no one to fill the vacancy.
Personally, I found this ministry to be very fulfilling. To experience the joy on the faces of seafarers when the chaplain arrives on-board the ship is reward enough. Seafarers often request that chaplains share a meal with them and sometimes they confide their problems, fears and anxieties.
Whenever seafarers are unable to leave their ship, chaplains and their spouses will go shopping for necessities at local stores.
At first I thought I was just a volunteer, but I have come to realize this ministry is a calling to serve seafarers and also to serve the Lord by utilizing my time and talent. Missionaries usually travel to far-off lands to serve others. Our ministry delivers the Word of God to the seafarers who visit the Port of Corpus Christi. We bring comfort by the Word of God, and pray for their safety at sea.
If you would like to consider becoming a Port Chaplain and desire more information, please call me at (361) 510-6539.
|Chaplain Tom Reilly Chairman pictured here with seafarers on board the M/T Sigmagas.|