By Janet Jones
POINT COMFORT, Texas — No longer is the seafarer ministry in Point Comfort in the Diocese of Victoria the only one without a physical structure to welcome seafarers.
On May 16, people who support the seafarers ministry celebrated the building and Victoria Bishop Brendan J. Cahill blessed the structure.
“Today is the feast day of St. Brendan. That is my patron saint, and St. Brendan is the patron saint of seafarers,” said the bishop, who is the episcopal promoter for Stella Maris in the United States.
Around the world, this Catholic apostolate assists seafarers in meeting their basic needs.
Rhonda Cummins, president of the Point Comfort Seafarers Center, and fellow board member Tom Wise spent months measuring, painting and doing all manner of construction work with donated materials to make the center a reality.
Doreen Badeaux, secretary-general for the Apostleship of the Sea USA and part of Stella Maris in the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, said she has been a colleague of Cummins for at least 10 years in the maritime ministry where there was a structure for the seafarer ministry.
“She would say, ‘Someday I want a seafarer’s center.’ Every year she would come and say, ‘I want a seafarers center.'”
Until now, Cummins and others who run the ministry have operated out of their homes. They visit the workers on the ships, assist with transportation, and make sure that Christmas gifts are plentiful so each ship coming into port can be assured that people remember them and pray for them. During the pandemic, they helped many workers get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Cummins also calls on clergy to celebrate Mass for the Catholic crew members or handle other spiritual needs of the seafarers. It’s an ecumenical ministry with volunteers from many faith backgrounds.
“It’s very important to have that ministry to the seafarers,” Badeaux told The Catholic Lighthouse, Victoria’s diocesan newspaper. “You have literally thousands of seafarers coming through your diocese every year and a large percentage of them are Catholic. So if they don’t experience the universal church while they are at sea for some time nine months, they may not have a connection to their faith anymore. And that connection to their faith — and just humanity — is very important.”
Cummins said having the building, therefore more visibility at the port, will help her gain more volunteers to visit the seafarers. Those who don’t wish to climb aboard a ship can stay at the center and welcome the crews.
The center is made of two small buildings joined together to create space for recreation, relaxation or prayer. Connecting the buildings is a covered porch.
Chris Moore, director of the seafarers ministry in Freeport, donated a saddle as a novelty for the men and women stopping at the port.
“So the guys can sit on the saddle — the seafarers — they can have their Texas ‘Kodak moment,'” Cummins said. She also said they like to work on puzzles, so she took some of the photos of the crews and had them made into puzzles for them to work on. One of the puzzles, put together by the crew pictured, is framed and hanging on the wall of the recreation room.
Moore said, “The cool thing about this place is that it’s inside the port. These men and women have ready access. It’s unique that they can walk to the center from the vessel without having to go outside the gates.”
Stella Maris centers around the world arrange for visits of clergy and others in ministry to seafarers when they are in port.
In the U.S., the Stella Maris ministry has a presence in 53 maritime ports in 48 archdioceses and dioceses in 26 states. There are over 100 chaplains and pastoral teams made up of priests, religious, deacons and lay ministers.