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Welcoming Christ in the Stranger
The whole world comes to Baltimore when two thousand merchant ships per year arrive. And recently there has been an ever-growing number of passenger cruise liners calling in our port city. The port of Baltimore – “the port that built a city” – brings into our midst merchant sailors from around the globe.
If we were to empty our houses, garages, gardens and our work places of everything that in some way came through the port, I think there would be many empty spaces. The weight of this seafaring industry rests on the strong backs of young merchant mariners. Today they are mostly from parts of the former Soviet Union and its satellites – Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia, Bulgaria, and from developing third world nations – The Philippine Islands, the state of Kerala in India and from China and all over Latin America. Many also come from modest families in Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
There are many issues that need to be addressed by the Church in the lives of seafarers – issues of justice, charity, hospitality, and supporting their faith. Our ministry is open to all seafarers. We welcome Orthodox Christians, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and all faiths, thus building bridges of understanding and acceptance. These young mariners return home remembering and telling their countrymen of the kindness of the Catholic Church in Baltimore. We are sowing the seeds for peace and tolerance.
I humbly ask the laity, religious, deacons, and my brother priests to support this outreach of Christian hospitality with their prayers, financial support, and with volunteer work. Let these seafarers know that to the Church in Baltimore they are not strangers, but welcomed friends.
The need of our parishes for priests is great. In my assignment I hope to help our priests and parishes by offering outlets for the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, by encouraging prayers throughout our local church for seafarers, and by assisting in the liturgies, days of reflections, and religious education programs.