VICTORIA, Texas — Seafarers who dock in Point Comfort, Texas, won’t be forgotten this Christmas with hundreds of gifts collected for them at the chancery of the Diocese of Victoria.
Victoria Bishop Brendan J. Cahill was on hand Dec. 14 to help load them up and get them ready to be transported by Rhonda Cummins, the maritime associate at the Point Comfort Seafarer’s Center.
The bishop is episcopal promoter for Stella Maris in the United States. Stella Maris is the Catholic Church’s ministry to seafarers around the world.
Donations came in to the chancery after the diocese listed on its website what many maritime crew members could use, like personal items — body wash, lotion, shaving cream, gloves, socks and T-shirts — as well as nonperishable snacks, cards and games.
In November, Cahill for the first time had the chance to celebrate a Mass aboard a ship. That he happened to be available when the ship was in port was a source of joy for many.
The ship, the Bow Star, had a 28-person crew from the Philippines, with about 13 able to attend the Mass. Originally the Mass was set for a Monday, then changed to Tuesday and again to Wednesday. It’s the nature of the business. And the pandemic and cargo delays haven’t helped.
Father Tommy Chen, pastor of Our Lady of the Gulf Parish in nearby Port Lavaca, Texas, who is the chaplain for the local Stella Maris ministry, had toured the port in Point Comfort just a month earlier to be prepared if he was called on to celebrate Mass.
He said he realized it would probably be a call with short notice and a small window of opportunity.
When the call came from the Bow Star, Chen was not available and asked Bishop Cahill, who said yes right away.
Deacon Eddie Huse of Holy Family Catholic Church in Victoria, and Sister Rosario Resendez, Bishop Cahill’s administrative assistant, went along to help set up for and serve during the Mass.
Huse said he was more than surprised to get the call from Bishop Cahill the morning of Nov. 3 to assist with the Mass. But he agreed right away and was amazed by the experience.
Resendez, who is a Sister of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament, said it was like entering another city.
She told The Catholic Lighthouse, Victoria’s diocesan newspaper, that she was touched by the crew’s gratitude and hospitality as well. The captain had them stay for supper before they went back home.
Cummins helped coordinate the visit and Bishop Cahill praised her for being the main minister at the small port.
She visits every ship that comes in, helping the seafarers get what they need — including vaccines — and coordinating the Christmas at Sea program that provides gifts to each member of the crew.
Cahill said no other port can claim that each ship gets a personal visit. He also said the captain of the Bow Star asked if there were Christmas gifts this time.
“Those seafarers remembered that,” he said. “It means a lot to them.”
Jones is editor of The Catholic Lighthouse, newspaper of the Diocese of Victoria.