In 1920, Catholic port ministry was conceived and developed in Glasgow, Scotland. Two years later, Pope Pius XI bestowed his blessing on the ministry and encouraged the Apostleship of the Sea to extend its mission to the waterways and shores of all the hemispheres. In every major country, the AOS Bishop Promoter oversees the work of a national director whose responsibility is to coordinate the chaplains’ efforts and assist them in developing their ministries.
In most major ports around the world, the diocese assigns a chaplain (a priest, deacon, religious, or lay ecclesial minister) to serve mariners aboard ship and ashore.
Merchant vessels, cruise ships, crowded wharves, hospitals, mariners’ academies, centers, clubs and retirement homes all make up the port chaplain’s community. Trained and experienced in the specific concerns of the maritime world, these chaplains, deacons and lay ecclesial ministers represent the local diocese bishop and serve as the mariners’ minister and friend.
The AOS was established to provide for the specific pastoral needs of mariners and all who travel by water. Chaplains provide the Catholic Mass, Confession, Anointing of the Sick, and the Sacraments of the Church and Pastoral Care. In addition, AOS ministries also work to ensure a safe work environment, just contracts, a genuine welcome and safe haven while in port, spiritual renewal, communication with loved ones back home, and recreational possibilities.