This week in Odessa, Ukraine, Fr. Oleksandr Smerechynskyy announced that the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) (Stella Maris) has opened up a centre for seafarers in Odessa, Ukraine.

AOS is an international Catholic welfare agency which has its roots in the early 1890s. Then and now, the Catholic Church brought medical, material, moral, and religious assistance to sailors at ports around the world. There is a Stella Maris centre in most sea ports around the world.

Today, about 15% of all sailors in the world come from Ukraine. There may be over 100,000 Ukrainians in the merchant marine.

In Australia, Fr. Olexander Kenez was the Stella Maris chaplain for more than 10 years. Bishop Peter was the Bishop Promotor for over 4 years. Fr. Stefan Sapun and other priests have visited and still visit and host Ukrainian sailors.

About eight years ago, Fr. Oleksandr from Odessa was appointed as chaplain for the ports of Ukraine. He visits ships and other facilities in Ukraine.

Bishop Ken and Oleksander

Bishop Ken and Oleksander

Three years ago, Bishop Peter Stasiuk was appointed head of the Patriarchal Commission for the Apostleship of the Sea by the Synod of Ukrainian Catholic Bishops. Fr. Oleksandr is the Vice Chair of the commission. There was a big push to expand our pastoral care for seafarers around the world. Fr. Oleksandr soon organized chaplains in various Eparchies in co-operation with the local Eparchs. There are chaplains now in France, Belgium, England, and Canada. More chaplains are needed and more service has to be provided to our sailors.

There was a Flying Angel Seafarers Club in Odessa for many years. This club was run by the Anglican Church. Last year they decided to withdraw from Ukraine and offered the centre to our church. As it was, Fr. Oleksandr was the main chaplain in the centre for many years. Now the centre, which is on the docks of Odessa, is fully operated by Stella Maris Ukraine. In the centre there is a chapel, meeting room, and facilities of hospitality and communication. It is now supported by our church worldwide.

On a sad note, Fr. Olexander Kenez has received word that Captain and Master Mariner, Yuriy Tykhonin, passed away suddenly at sea on the 7th January 2016 at the age of 56. He contacted Fr. Kenez many years ago about the presence of Ukrainian sailors in Melbourne and Australia. He was our main contact. Vichnaya Pamyat Yuri. Please pray for him and his family.

Please pray and support all sailors in the world. They are the ones who bring all of us the goods we need for a prosperous life. Imagine what your life would be like if there were no ships or sailors.