Category Archives: Ecumenical working

Twinning… or dating for seafarers’ centres!

The twinning of seafarers’s centres, a project currently run by the newly established ISWAN, was initially intended by ICSW to connect ex-Soviet Union centres with centres elsewhere in the world.  Set up to improve understanding of the the mindset of Slavonic seafarers, and to inspire hospitality to foreign seafarers in Eastern European ports, the Twinning programme has proven so successful, that it has been expanded to include the rest of the world.

Seafarers’ centre staff are supported to enable reciprocal visits.  Spending time at other centres that have similar needs and demographics, and that face challenges akin to those at home, allows for centres to learn from one another.    Centres are matched on various criteria.  The evaluation of the twinning scheme has been universally positive.  In some cases twinning of seafarers’ centres have gone way beyond the original aims of the programme, resulting in ongoing relations being established between the host ports and even the host cities.

Tatyana Tarasysk, manager of one of the two seafarers’ centres in Odessa, Ukraine, leads the project. Tatyana Tarasysk promoted the programme in a presentation at the ICMA Black Sea, Mediterranean and Middle East Regional Conference held in Odessa.  The aim of the programme, she said, was to improve seafarers’ welfare. “To feel encouraged when you see others struggling with the same problems.”

Tatyana related several stories and comments from centres that have participated. She urged ICMA centres to consider participating in the Twinning scheme.

Guidelines on who could participate and how to get involved are available on the website of ISWAN, the International Seafarers Welfare and Assistance Network.

Christian unity is the face of ICMA


“Evangelisation in seafarers’ ministries is closely related to all our faith communities’ witness to Christian unity.  Christian unity, expressed as ecumenism, is the face and identity of ICMA”. 

Father Bruno Ciceri, representative of Apostleship of the Sea / Stella Maris in the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Itinerant People and member of the ICMA Executive Committee, addressed the Odessa Regional Conference of ICMA.  He spoke of New Evangelisation and Ecumenism.

Established in 1969, ICMA grew from new hope for demonstrations of Christian unity after Vaticanum II.  ICMA heralded the end of much enmity and conflict among denominations involved in ministries to seafarers.  At that time,  IMO and the International Labour Office and the industry in general were keen to cooperate with Christian partners and to hear the voice of the church, if Christians can speak with one voice.  For both the church and the industry, ICMA has lived up to these expectations.  It has bridged the schisms between the faith traditions and has been actively involved in IMO and ILO, having made significant contributions to conventions like MLC2006.

ICMA fostered solidarity and unity at a time when its individual members operated in competition with one another for the custom of seafarers. ICMA facilitates sharing of resources, establishment of ecumenical centres and inspires respect for the theological traditions in Christian faith.

Sakari Lehmuskallio, at the time Chair of ICMA, once said at an AOS World Congress in Brazil that ICMA members should “interact in friendship”, highlighting the personal relations that encourage ecumenical working.

While we strive to speak with a single  Christian voice, it is required that we also act accordingly for the benefit seafarers, fishers and families.  In reality, complete unity in our witness to Christ is not yet complete.  Often the problem lies not with ICMA members’ managements, but at port level.  Personal differences between local chaplains and volunteers sometimes complicate relations.  Not enough people know and follow ICMA’s agreed Code of Conduct. Father Ciceri urged chaplains to meditate on the Code of Conduct.  We should be inspired by it, have it framed in every centre, but most of all installed in our hearts, Father Ciceri said.    We are tempted to proselytise (to make seafarers members of our own denomination).  Let us be directed by the spirit of ICMA’s Code of Conduct.

We should serve all seafarers without discrimination.  We should fight prejudice, intolerance and injustice of any kind.   Let us respect diversity, and develop what unite us rather than emphasise too often what divides us.

We should get to know one another personally.  Good personal relations help.  Try to develop an understanding of the doctrines of other churches.  Often we judge one another with no regard to another’s loyalty and faithfulness to the own church and tradition. Let’s make an effort to know more. Learn to be honest and to discuss problems with one another rather than to harbour suspicions.  Address small problems in good time to prevent them from getting out of hand.

May the Holy Spirit guide us in reconciliation and help us to be sign of hope and consolation.

Our beginings are borne from the need to preserve the faith of seafarers. Be bridge builders.  Embrace one another. Connect people.  Connect seafarers to churches and to support services. Ask: What do seafarers encounter in us?  Do they find in us a faith that is relevant for them and affects their life?   If seafarers were to ask: Why do you do this for me?, we have achieved our goal.   There is no reasonable answer to this question other than faith and our relationship with God and his people.  We do not get personal benefit.  We build bridges from the church to the seafarer. We bring toe gospel to their troubled life, we bring the gospel to their celebrations, and we bring the gospel to the industry.

Our common action speaks louder than words.  Let s be messengers of one new humanity in Christ.

ICMA strategic review continues

River Liffey, Dublin. Source: College Tribune

The International Christian Maritime Association continues its strategic review.  The Executive Committee meets in Dublin on 15th and 16th January to discuss the report on the Members Consultation held last year in Rome.

Crucial to the discussions continues to be the strengthening of the Association.  The Members’ Consultation has identified what the Association should be doing to meet the needs of its members.  The delivery of these services to its members hinges on ICMA’s ability to afford them.

The Executive Committee has invited members to comment on the report of the Rome review and to make proposals for the implementation of ideas and principles agreed at the Consultation.  The Executive meeting in Dublin will attempt to devise practiicable strategies within the Association’s limited means.

The Apostleship of the Sea in Dublin is hosting the meeting of the ICMA Executive Committee.  The ExCom is grateful to Rose Kearney who has assisted in making local arrangements.

The management of the ICMA UK and Ireland Region is set to meet at the same venue in Dublin on January 17th.  The ExCom has been invited to attend the region’s meeting.


Directory a lifeline to seafarers

ICMA member the Apostleship of the Sea / Stella Maris has launched its first printed directory of port chaplains around the world. This directory contains contact details of the Stella Maris network.

In a statement released in London, AoS spokesperson John Green said:

The directory contains the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of the Catholic maritime agency’s chaplains in 259 ports.  We have chaplains in most of the world’s ports, from Durban to Dubai and from Costa Rica to Colombo.  We believe providing details of all our chaplains will be a valuable resource for both seafarers and many others working in the shipping industry.

The AoS directory will be useful to the International Christian Maritime Association.  ICMA has a comprehensive online directory which reflects details of all our members’ operations.  The new AoS directory will, in time, be added to the ICMA online directory.

Over Christmas the ICMA online directory (available by clicking on the icon in this article and at the top of this page) has been updated extensively.  The update process is continuing.   ICMA’s directory makes every attempt at providing convenient access to all of our members’ stations, centres and chaplains at a single location in an up to date database.  ICMA’s directory is the only one that provides contact details of all our members’ seafarers’ centres and of our chaplains in ports where no seafarers centres exist.

Port chaplains, seafarers centres and other ICMA personnel and establishments are urged to check their own details in the ICMA database and to regularly inform the Secretariat of changes as they occur.

The value of the ICMA directory was demonstrated recently when SeafarerHelp searched for assistance to be given to seafarers in crisis as far afield as Chile, the Falkland Islands and Ukraine.

AoS’s John Green stated at the release of the new AoS directory:

Our chaplains are a lifeline for many seafarers when they arrive in a port. Seafarers know that they can trust and rely on a chaplain.

That lifeline depends on our diligence at keeping our contact details current.

ICMA Regional Conference announced

The ICMA Mediterranean, Black Sea and Middle East Region is to present its regional conference in Odessa from 8th to 11th of April 2013.  The Regional Conference was announced this week by the region’s coordinator, Deacon Ricardo Rodriguez-Martos, from Stella Maris Barcelona. The conference is made possible by a generous grant received from the ITF Seafarers Trust.

In a letter to ICMA chaplains in the Region, Ricardo wrote:

We are calculating costs for the conference.   We will inform you very shortly of the costs and the program planned for the event.  Some topics are already included for presentations to be made by specialists:

  • Cruise Ships ministry,
  • Ecumenical working and networking within ICMA,
  • Chaplains’ responses to the effects of piracy on seafarers, to be presented by the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme
  • MLC 2006, to be presented by Douglas B. Stevenson from the Center for Seafarers Rights, SCI New York and New Jersey
  • The welfare agenda of the ITF and its Seafarers’ Trust

However, given that this is a regional conference and that it is very important to take into account the concerns of the region I am asking you now for suggestions.  Please send me, not later than January 16th, your proposals for topics that you would like the conference to address.  Even if you don’t know if you will be able to attend the conference, send your suggestions. As far as possible we will try to find ways for people not able to attend the conference to somehow participate in it.

Only ICMA members from the region need respond to the request.  Ricardo can be reached at


We are connected

“Even if we do not meet in person in the near future, we are connected through the many seafarers, who tell about our ports and seafarers’ mission.”

Kerstin Schefe, DSM Stade

In her contemplation of lessons learnt and friendships forged at the Seafarers Ministry Training held this year in Barcelona, SMT student Kerstin Schefe of the Deutsche Seemannsmission remembers the closing sentiments of the 2012 SMT:  we are connected.  We are one worldwide support group for seafarers with as many ministries as there are Christian churches and as much diversity as there are traditions within our Christian faith.  We are ecumenically connected to one another by shared faith and common commitment to care for all seafarers.

Kerstin Schefe wrote:

With a slightly Irish accent now in my English pronunciation I am sitting in the plane and think about the past two weeks.

I traveled to Barcelona for the Seafarers Ministry Training 2012 – to meet 12 other participants form different missions and ports of the big wide world. And I met “parts
of the world”, learnt from them and received something from them – not only concerning my language skills.

Through topics like Pastoral Care, Concepts of Mission, Cultural Diversity, the work of different seafarers’ missions, Maritime Law, a Port Visit, Inter Religious Dialogue
and a visit to the maritime museum various basic themes of our work were discussed.

There was as well time for personal exchange, helping each other, developing new concepts for the own work and getting to know each other. Apart from good basic knowledge, a new idea for fundraising I took as well “small things” for the daily work with me. It is a good idea when coming on board not only to give the gangway watchman a friendly welcome but to start with a simple “Welcome to Germany”.

And I won’t forget the faces of the other seafarers’ missions with their various ports and the newly developed friendships.

Satisfied I look back and remember positively a statement in the Maritime Museum of Barcelona: “When we end a journey, we are different.”

And now I am sitting in the plane, already to missing the group while I start smiling unconsciously when a statement from our farewell round comes to my mind: “Even if we do not meet in person in the near future, we are connected through the many seafarers, who tell about our ports and seafarers’ mission”

Kerstin Schefe, Deutsche Seemannsmission, Stade, Germany

Apostleship of the Sea World Congress XXIII, Vatican City: a showcase event

Pope Benedict XVI blessed the Catholic ministry to seafarers at the largest ever World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea, held last month in the Vatican City.  In the first audience with a pope since the dedication of the AoS 90 years ago, the more than 400 delegates and guests of the 23rd Congress were witness to the Holy Father’s re-commitment of the Church to this vital ministry. 

The Congress will be remembered for its magnitude, its venue, its worship, fellowship and deliberations.  Themed “New Evangelisation”, the Congress considered new ways of witnessing to God in contemporary society where faith is reviled and rejected as irrelevant.

The opening mass was held in the iconic St Peter’s Basilica, moving from there to the John Paul VI Synod Hall for general assembly.  The daily celebration of the mass took place in full view of the magnificent sculpture The Resurrected Christ.   Delegates were treated to a private tour of the Vatican Museum, highlighting the Sistine Chapel.

The Congress heard presentations on the theology of New Evangelisation from His Excellency Msgr Rino Fisichella, President of the Ponticical Council for New Evangelisation and from Reverend Hennie la Grange, General Secretary of the International Christian Maritime Association, on New Evangelisation’s ecumenical application.  Seafarers rights were addressed  by Ms. Deidre Fitzpatrick from Seafarers Rights International and Dr. Peter Swift , Chair of the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme, made a moving presentation on the scourge of piracy.  David Cockroft, Secretary General of the International Transport Workers Federation, spoke on the challenges and opportunities facing AoS, and Dr. Cleopatra Dumbia Hendry, Director of the Internatonal Labour Standards of the ILO, presented MLC 2006 as an instrument for promoting seafarers welfare.  The Congress celebrated World Fishers Day on 21st November by dedicating the day to fishers issues including discussion of the Convention on Fishing.

The Congress, packed with memorable highlights from start to finish, had two very deeply moving moments which delegates will not forget.

  • The Master of a vessel held captive by Somali pirates for almost a year, came to tell his story of faith, endurance and compassion.  He spoke of his deep concerns for his crew, his personal terror, and of his forgiveness for the pirates.  The standing ovation lasted several minutes.
  • And on the final day the Congress moved to the papal palace for a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI, receiving his blessing for AoS and the Catholic ministries to seafarers.


Father Bruno Ciceri, Antonella Farina and the team have delivered a monumental event in the life of the Apostleship of the Sea.  The Congress has again proven the AoS is a vibrant and dynamic organisation in the ministry to seafarers, and this Congress will, no doubt, inspire the Stella Maris network to even greater things.  ICMA congratulates the Apostleship of the Sea upon delivery of this showcase event for faith-based care to people of the sea.

You can download the presentation of the ICMA General Secretary, Reverend Hennie la Grange, “New Evangelisaton in Ecumenical Context”, from our Publications page.

Report on ICMA’s Rome Consultation

ICMA’s members today received the first report on ICMA’s Members’ Consultation held in Rome during September of 2012.  The report is part of the ongoing consultative process to strengthen the International Christian Maritime Association.  Members are invited to comment on the report.  Further contributions and feedback from members will be taken into account when the report is tabled at a special meeting of the Executive Committee dedicated wholly to the strategic review.  That meeting is scheduled to take place in Dublin, Ireland, on 15th and 16th January 2013.  

The summary of the report, drafted by ICMA’s Chair, Douglas B. Stevenson states:

On 14 and 15 September 2012 the ICMA Executive Committee held consultations with senior representatives of member societies in Rome.  The purpose of the consultations was to include as many ICMA members as possible in a strategic review of ICMA’s future purpose, structure, and direction.  Twenty-three of the twenty-eight ICMA members participated in the consultations – the largest number of members ever assembled for a strategic ICMA review.  [This many members could attend due to a generous grant received from the ITF Seafarers Trust.]  The ICMA ExCom is seeking to strengthen the association by providing benefits and services to its members for the benefit of seafarers and fishers, by being responsive to its members and by implementing financial policies to sustain its operations.  To encourage widespread participation by all members, the consultations were broken down into six small discussion groups led by ExCom member facilitators.  The discussion paper entitled “Conduct of a Strategic Review of ICMA” was used to guide the consultations.   The consultations were very successful in engaging participation by all members present and producing many constructive ideas.  Although time limitations prevented reaching consensus on many of the ideas raised, all of them warrant further consideration by the ExCom.  There was consensus, however, ICMA’s value as a Christian organization that unites its members in common missions to seafarers and fishers.

“Return to the heart of faith”

Pope Benedict XVI

We must… recognise that… unity [of the church] is a gift from God, and may come to us only from the Father through His Son, because the Church is His Church.

We must not forget what it is that unites us: our faith in God the Father and Creator, revealed in His Son Jesus Christ, effusing the Spirit which revives and sanctifies. This is the faith we received in Baptism and it is the faith that, in hope and charity, we can profess together.

We, believers in Christ, are called upon to return to the essential, to the heart of our faith, to bear witness to the living God before the world.

Benedict XVI


Pope Benedict XVI was quoted by the Vatican Information Service (VIS).  The Holy Father was addressing the crisis of faith affecting even those parts of the world where the proclamation of the Gospel was first accepted and where Christian life has flourished for centuries, but where many now no longer perceive the absence of God in their lives as a form of deprivation.  And while the Catholic Church seeks to respond to this crisis, it does not intend doing so on its own. It poses a challenge to all Christians, he said.  The Catholic Church is responding with what it calls “New Evangelisation,” a return to the fundamentals of the Christian faith when addressing a hostile world.  Significantly, the Pope sees “New Evangelisation” as the shared enterprise of all Christians, with ecumenical implications: New Evangelisation presupposes the unity of the church of Christ, a unity founded on the heart of our faith.

New Evangelisation is the theme of next week’s Apostleship of the Sea World Congress XXIII to be held in the Vatican City.  ICMA’s General Secretary and minister of the Nederduitsch Hervormde Kerk van Afrika (Dutch Reformed Church), Dominee Hennie la Grange has been invited to address the Congress on New Evangelisation in Ecumenical Context.

Here is the full text of the article in VIS:

Continue reading “Return to the heart of faith”