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My Friend’s Husband is a Captain: A True Story about the Difficult Life of a Seafarer and his Family

28 June 2018

 

Parishes across Australia are called to support the work of Seafarers as part of the annual Sea Sunday Appeal on 8 July. Every dollar raised will help to provide pastoral support for seafaring men, women and their families through the works of Stella Maris centres across Australia.

A few weeks ago, I suddenly thought of my friend and ex-colleague, Divina, who had a seafarer husband, Ronald. I attended their wedding, which was three years before mine.

Knowing that my friend passed away a couple of years ago, I was wondering how Ronald would have coped, especially if they had children. Since leaving my country of origin over twenty-five years ago, I have not had any contact with Ronald as he was always at sea.

Out of curiosity, I searched for him on Facebook. Lo, and behold! I saw a photo of him sitting in a huge desk wearing his sailor’s uniform. I immediately sent him a Facebook Messenger message hoping that he will be able to see my greetings if there was Wi-Fi where ever in the world he was. A few hours later, I had a response.

Ronald was actually on a ship docked in an Australian Port! Hay Point Port is one of the largest coal export ports in the world and is located about 40 kilometres south of Mackay, QLD. His ship was loading coal that was bound for India.  I had to call him again as they were completing the load trying to make it in time for their port departure at 7.00 the following morning.

Incidentally, as he was busy that day, he sent his crew out on a seafarer’s centre bus to purchase some of his ship’s supplies.

Once he finished their loading duties, I chatted with him about life as a seafarer. Ronald is now a ship captain. He still works 10 months on the ships and visits his family for two months. He informed me that he and Divina had three children.

For more about the Apostleship of the Sea, the Sea Sunday Appeal or to make a donation, please visit: www.aos-australia.org

Ronald shared with me that while Divina was giving a Speech at a work-related event, she collapsed. She stayed in hospital for three days and then passed away. When Ronald heard the news, his ship just left a port in France three days before and was bound for Colombia. There was no way he could return to France nor dock in a nearby port. It was a heart breaking twelve (12) days of sea travel. He boarded a plane in Colombia bound for Manila, Philippines.

The family had to wait for him to arrive so he could attend the funeral.  He told me that they had three (3) children, two boys and a girl in between. Their sons graduated from university while their daughter could not complete her degree.  Her mother’s death greatly affected her and she could not focus on her studies.

Ronald stayed with his family for six (6) months to grieve and to be with their children. When their grandmother was able to care for the children and had found a household help, he boarded his ship again and recommenced work.

Since completing a degree at a maritime academy in his hometown, he had been working as a seaman. He has worked with five shipping companies and provided years of dedicated service. For him, this is his calling. Divina knew that when she married Ronald, they would only see each other a few months each year and their children would have their father with them for two months every year.

This story highlights some of the practical issues affecting seafarers and their families and the struggles they face.

Written by: Roslyn Rajasingam, National Director, Apostleship of the Sea – 15 May 2018

For more about the Apostleship of the Sea, the Sea Sunday Appeal or to make a donation, please visit: www.aos-australia.org

 

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