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 Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

People on the Move

N° 99, December 2005



Regional Conference 

of the Apostleship of the Sea 

FOR North America and the Caribbean*




Our Centers: vision and vocation

We have found a desire for a new vision.  

We must open our Centers to all and be prepared to serving all: the international mariners, as well as the local fishers, mariners and the local community. Chaplains must work with and welcome the local talent in the community, to bring their talents to bear in serving all of our fishers and mariners. Our Centers and our ministry will only be successful when they are community based. But then we must reach out beyond the local community.

It is justified to place an emphasis on the local population and to look after local communities of fishermen, port workers and ship workers, but ship visiting is also important. This is why we recommend that a team of volunteers under the guidance of the National Director and of Sr Rachele Marando be constituted to do “systematic and regular” ship visiting. In this connection a vehicle however would help.

There is a scarcity of clergy in the Seafarers Centers, but the numbers of volunteers and involvement of the laity has greatly increased.

There is a growing awareness in the entire region to be responsible stewards of the earth. There is an active process going on, of volunteers trying to respond to that. We are all struggling with the same realities of threats to our ecology. Holistic approaches must be taken to truly solve problems of ecology, etc. 


In Mexico there is no AOS Bishop Promoter. Thus, AOS Mexico now falls under the general direction of the Migrants’ Commission of this Bishops’ Conference. We recommend, in accordance with Apostolic Letter Motu Proprio on the Maritime Apostolate of the 10th April 1997, that a Bishop promoter be appointed in each country of the Region. Also when the Bishop’s Conference appoints a National Director, it is imperative that they be given a budget with which to work. Without this, any effort is greatly restricted.

In the US, we must appeal to the governments’ sense of responsibility and let them know we are a “faith-based” initiative and as such we should qualify for Government’s subsidy.

Wherever the AOS has strong links with the local Church, it tends to prosper. The necessity of a strong link between AOS and the Church was thus emphasized.

Fishing Issues

We must become truly aware of fishing issues. International Treaties of the U.S., as well as ILO and FAO activities, must be studied. We must endeavor to make our voices heard when these discussions take place. International conventions must be supported and promoted by every possible means.

The fishing industry in our region is being decimated by pollution and by tourism. The general practices in petroleum exploration, shipping and the cruise industry pose a large threat to ecology and to the fishing industry. We must help to diversify the fishing community into other economic sectors of the maritime community and of the larger community, for example eco-tourism. 

This problem must be taken very seriously by the “AOS International Fishing Committee” as the negative effects on the lives of ordinary people are grave.

 AOS encourages fishermen training which emphasizes the improvement of fishing methods and fish handling so as to improve the quality and market price of the product.

The work being done by the Progreso Stella Maris Center was of great interest and particularly appreciated, its commitment to the families of fishers and its engagement in community development is noteworthy. 

Cruise Ships

This region of the world is the most active in the cruise industry. It brings many benefits, yet many negative effects as well. We must call upon the Cruise Ship Priests and local AOS Chaplains to work cooperatively together.

We have been informed by our members from the USA about a possible change in regulations related to seafarer penalty wages and pay deductions, which would affect foreign seafarers on cruise ships and their families. We are very concerned by this news. 

Training and Formation

People do not understand the way international welfare works in the maritime world (the acronyms, etc…). There is a need for English courses both for the volunteers, the seafarers and fishers alike.

The point regarding avaibility of scholarships to the Houston school should be raised with ICMA so that AOS chaplains also can benefit from them through ICMA.

Fishing and seafaring communities depend a great deal upon women. They have a primordial role, they must be given formation and support. 

Reports from each country:

Caribbean – We had no reports. As far as we know, the AOS in the Caribbean is non-existent. However, the Catholic Church has been asked to support new initiatives to start maritime ministry there. In principle we recommend that initiatives, especially if they are truly ecumenical, be encouraged.

Canada – Currently restructuring to much success.

USA – Big success in AOS USA Cruise Ship Priest Program.

Mexico-Progeso – Community based AOS Center is very successful. Excellent interaction between many facets of the community (government, business, university, adult education, religious, etc.). This should be considered a model in many ways.

There have been some initiatives to extend AOS into rest of the country (Mexico) but to little success thus far. 

Goals for AOS in North America and the Caribbean:

  1. To send as many Port Chaplains to attend a two-week Port Chaplaincy training in (Apostleship of the Sea) Houston, Texas.
  2. To hold regularly AOS National and Regional Conferences. To ensure that a regional conference be held before the AOS World Congress in 2007.
  3. The National Directors shall conduct regular visits to their various ports.
  4. To develop and/or increase the circulation of AOS National newsletters or magazines.
  5. To provide greater awareness by Church leaders concerning the ministry activities development.
  6. To support and encourage each country to celebrate Sea Sunday.
  7. To encourage AOS chaplains and volunteers to participate in continuing education through industry publications, and call upon national AOS organizations to organize national training programs.
  8. To encourage and support the “AOS International Website”.

Challenges for AOS in North America and the Caribbean:

  1. The need for an appropriate budget to cover the basic needs of the ministry on the National, local and regional levels.
  2. In the Caribbean, the Catholic Church’s cooperation has been requested in order to start Maritime Ministry there.
  3. To continually expand community support to the local AOS mission.
  4. To have an on-going AOS presence in international and national ecological conventions, which is also achieved through ICMA.
  5. To follow attentively the evolution of the possible change in regulations related to seafarer penalty wages and pay deductions.


We wish to commend and thank AOS Mexico, its National Director and its devoted team of pastoral agents and volunteers for a very good conference and for the superb organization and welcome they gave us.

*May 24-26, 2005, at Progreso, Yucatán, MEXICO