Living out a love story

Sr Mary Leahy rsj, has been Port Chaplain in Sydney for 22 years and more recently was named Regional Co-ordinator - Apostleship to the Sea, Oceania by Pope Francis. Sr Mary was guest speaker at the Assembly of Catholic Professionals luncheon recently and also spoke to diocesan staff at Cathedral House.

Originally from County Cork, Ireland, Mary is a welcome presence on ships and at the seafarers club, ministering to the needs of seafarers who may not have seen home and family for up to twelve months.

The Apostleship to the Sea began with the concern of one man in Wales for the plight of seafarers. Drawing on her Josephite heritage, Mary said, “Twelve months of the same faces at breakfast – unlike me, they didn’t choose the monastic life! They’re there because there’s poverty in the world.”

Mary said that life at sea, not unlike the Church, is hierarchical and often, “What happens on board stays on board.” Perhaps the simplest but most significant gift of those who minister to seafarers is a listening, sympathetic ear. There is a great deal of cruelty and bullying on ships and the mix of nationalities can bring its own tensions.

Because seafarers are often addressed by role, rather than name, Mary tries hard to remember the names of those she encounters. “They keep everything going, enabling us to enjoy so many good things, but they’re not given the dignity they so richly deserve.”

Her role as Regional Co-ordinator - Apostleship to the Sea, Oceania, gives her the opportunity to look at different ways of ministering and to support whatever is effective. She says that the role of the Church is to “encourage and support rather than label” people, roles or situations.

“I fell in love with the seafarers really – I’ve been blessed to be able to live out this love story. I can be who I am and I want the seafarers to have the same opportunity.”

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Tracey Edstein Image
Tracey Edstein

Tracey Edstein is the former editor of Aurora Magazine, the official magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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