Monsignor John L. FitzGerald, director of Apostleship of the Sea Baltimore, is presenting a 20-minute PowerPoint presentation to Knights of Columbus councils across the state. First offered to more than 300 Knights during their mid-term meeting late January in Perry Hall, many grand knights and other officials indicated they enjoyed it so much, said Joe Buccheri, chaplain and deputy director of AOS, that they asked Monsignor FitzGerald to visit individual councils (there are 130). This way, the entire membership could view the challenges seafarers face while at sea, understand their lifestyle, and learn of the many positive changes taking place in the maritime industry to help make life at sea safer.
“This is a wonderful visual,” said Mr. Buccheri of the demonstration created by the monsignor with the assistance of technical team Mary Jane “MJ” Ong and Jin Lee, medical researchers at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore.
“MJ and Jin are dragging me into the 21st century of electronic audio and visual communications,” said Monsignor FitzGerald. “Without their skills and commitment to ministry to international seafarers, the Apostleship of the Sea would not be reaching so many in the archdiocese like it is.”
The presentation portrays the dedicated team of AOS maritime ministers (ship visitors) as they service the ships through providing friendly faces, transportation, reading materials, and a link to Catholicism while ships are in Baltimore ports.
“International seafarers are not seen locally,” said Monsignor FitzGerald, “but they are here in the tens of thousands every year. The great Pope John Paul II called them ‘the invisible strangers among us.’”
The video also highlights a history of AOS; it was founded in 1921 in Glasgow, Scotland. In 1922, it was recognized as the official Catholic ministry to the people of the sea by Pope Pius XI. Many former popes have supported the mission of AOS and the many ways Catholics can assist the ministry.
While presenting, Monsignor FitzGerald, a retired U.S. Navy captain and chaplain, touches on the reality of piracy that still exists on seas and how the media downplays the news stories or provides no press at all.
“Piracy is but one more fact of life that the seafarer must face while working to make an honest wage to help support their family,” commented Mr. Buccheri.
As a result of the visual presentations, and information shared by Monsignor FitzGerald during Masses he celebrates, Apostleship of the Sea has recruited several additional ship visitors. The organization eventually hopes to engage a full-time staff for days, evenings, and as hosts of the AOS Stella Maris center in Dundalk. They will assist seafarers with phone calls, Internet use, etc.
As a Catholic ministry that embraces all faiths, Monsignor FitzGerald invites groups and organizations to view the AOS Power Point presentation. (Contact him at 443-845-7227 to schedule a date.)
“I hope in addition to adult groups,” said the monsignor, “that teachers and mentors of children and teenager groups … will invite me to offer this 20-minute presentation. It is full of issues of Christian witness and welcome to strangers and of gospel social justice issues.”