Stella Maris, formerly The Apostleship of the Sea, is the Catholic Church’s Missionary work to the Seafarers whether they be on merchant, passenger, war or fishing vessels. While the Church has always been interested in Seafarers since Christ first gathered his fishermen-disciples around him, the modern movement began in the 1890s with several isolated and independent beginnings.
The purpose of Stell Maris is to care for the Spiritual, Social, and Material welfare of all Seafarers without distinction of colour, race or creed:
SPIRITUAL – Inspired by our Catholic faith and respecting the beliefs and practices of all seafarers, we nourish their spiritual lives by being Christ for them and finding Christ in them.
SOCIAL – Concerned for the social well-being of seafarers, we provide internet and telecommunications facilities, to allow them to keep in contact with their families, and recreational activities promoting their mental and physical health.
MATERIAL – Committed to social justice for all and believing in the dignity of the human person, we support seafarers in their right to fair remuneration, appropriate onboard accommodation, safe working conditions and non-discriminatory treatment by advocacy and working with other organisations.
As a missionary work, it serves ALL seafarers:
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained
angels without knowing it.”
– Hebrews 13:2 (NRSVCE)
The Missionary Work of the Catholic Church
The Welfare of Seafarers
We, the Catholic Bishops of Australia are deeply edified by the response of the Maritime Industry to the Forum on Seafarers’ Welfare held in Melbourne on 22-23 August 2000, sponsored by the Department of Transport and Regional Services and hosted by the Apostleship of the Sea (now Stella Maris) and the Australian Council of the Mission to Seafarers.
We welcome and support the initiative taken by the Governmental and Maritime Industry to develop a National Seafarers’ Welfare Advisory Council and Port Welfare Committees throughout Australia. It is vital that the on-ship environment not put seafarers’ lives in unnecessary danger or seafarers in sub-human conditions of life and work.
It is distressing that not all ship-owners and charterers appear to be earnestly seeking to ensure that their ships are safe and their seafarers’ conditions worthy of human beings. For example, some “Flags of Convenience” ships continue to operate with impunity, despite their having little regard for human dignity, for our country’s laws, and for our environment. As we commend Australia’s maritime safety authority for the stronger line it is taking with regard to such ‘ships of shame’, ceaseless vigilance and action on the part of all who must or can assist the needs of seafarers are called for.
The now scheduled development of Port Seafarers’ Welfare Committees will not only ensure the support of the work of seafarers’ welfare agencies: it will, at each local level, help the efficiency and enhance the reputation of the Australian Maritime Industry and show the world that Australia has deeply at heart the welfare of all.
The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference
Stella Maris (formerly Apostleship of the Sea)
The special work of the church is known as Stella Maris (previously Apostolatus Maris – Apostleship of the Sea), for it is the Church’s official work of caring for people who work on the sea on ships or fishing vessels.
The principal patroness is Mary the Mother of God who, in the Litany of Our Lady, is amongst many titles, called STAR OF THE SEA.
As the STARS have been navigational aids for centuries, our title is apt. When we have our own centre, we usually call it STELLA MARIS or in English: STAR OF THE SEA.