Working with Seafarers is different every day and it’s very fulfilling

2 July 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.

When a crew member fell overboard from a ship off Mackay, Peter Cahill and his team from the Stella Maris Seafarers Centre were invited onboard to provide solace, spiritual care and someone for the distressed crew to talk to.

Peter, who started work with the Stella Maris Centre in Mackay last December after 40 years working in the shipping industry, says the response to that incident sums up the nature of the ministry to seafarers.

“Earlier this year, a crew member fell overboard on the way to Hay Point and they never found the body, despite an extensive search. He was presumed dead,” says Peter.

“When the ship got here we were requested by the ship’s owners to get a counsellor and a priest out to the ship.

“The ship was at anchorage quite a way out, so we had to get them to the ship by helicopter.

“What followed was a very moving afternoon. When we got there, you could see the distress on the crew’s faces. They were really feeling it.”

For more about the Apostleship of the Sea, the Sea Sunday Appeal or to make a donation, please visit:

The priest celebrated Mass onboard the ship and stayed for a couple of hours afterwards to talk to anyone who wanted to talk. The counsellor was also available.

“By the time we were leaving, you could see signs of relief in their faces. It was all very moving. Those days are fairly worthwhile, that’s for sure.”

On the other days, in the absence of big incidents, Peter and his team would typically pick up crew from Dalrymple Bay and Hay Point coal terminals as well as Mackay Harbour and take them into Mackay for shore leave.

“We help them change their currency, take them shopping and take them to our Centre which is a big, homey place with Wi-Fi, where they can relax. That’s the majority of our work.

“When people are ill, we take them to the doctors and then of course, there’s the spiritual side, where we can call upon a priest when needed. But mostly, it’s the simple stuff they’re after.”

Asked what he most loves about his work at the Stella Maris Centre, Peter doesn’t hesitate.

“It’s the contact with the people you meet, people from every cultural background. It’s different every day and it’s very fulfilling.”

For more about the Apostleship of the Sea, the Sea Sunday Appeal or to make a donation, please visit:


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