The parish of the high seas

Tom Grufferty

The Apostleship of the Sea provides pastoral and spiritual care for those who work at sea. Tom Grufferty, a priest in the Diocese of Portsmouth, writes of his experience as a cruise ship chaplain.

For the last two years the Apostleship of the Sea has asked me to be the Catholic Chaplain on P&O Cruise ships during the Christmas period. The first cruise was around the North Sea which was no joke in the middle of a very dark winter. The cruise included a port visit to wonderful cities such as Copenhagen, Oslo and Amsterdam, but we saw little of these places because it is virtually dark until 10.00 am, and dusk comes in again about 15.30.

Because of this experience, I resolved never to do another cruise, mainly because it prolonged the dark days of winter for me. My resolution was firm until the Apostleship of the Sea offered me the chaplaincy on the Britannia in the Caribbean for Christmas 2018. How could any human turn down such an offer? Not only was the location most attractive but the voyage was for two weeks, covering Christmas and Epiphany.

Equally importantly, I was much better prepared pastorally for the role of Chaplain this time. The guidelines from the Apostleship of the Sea are very clear. The chaplain’s priority is to the Catholic crew members. Most of the crew are devout Catholics from Southern India and the Philippines.

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