Saturday, August 9, 2008

A decade of service: The Apostleship of the Sea - Stella Maris Seafarers Center

source: Tinig ng Marino

THE APOSTLESHIP OF THE SEA-Stella Maris Seafarers Center is a very familiar
term to the world’s seamen of different nationalities and religions. In fact, most of the world’s seamen considered it as a home away from home.

The AOS-Stella Maris Seafarers Center is a network of 105 seafarer’s centers throughout the world’s seaports run and supervised by the Roman Catholic Church’s Apostleship of the Sea program under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People of the Vatican.

The main objectives of the apostleship are:
— To provide for the pastoral care of seafarers, and
— To extend services for the spiritual, moral, physical and social needs of seafarers and all people of the sea.

Here in the Philippines, there was an active AOS presence in many ports throughout the country dating back to the 1950’s and 60’s. But all of these either “died’ a natural death or were closed down during the Martial Law years under President Marcos (1972 – 1986).

The re-birth of AOS activity began in June 1989 after the official visit of Msgr. John O’Shea in Manila, and consequently, under the directive of the Apostleship of the Sea International Secretariat in Vatican City, AOS Centers for the Ports of Manila, Davao and Cebu were established respectively. Since then, other Apostolate of the Sea Ministries was established at Cagayan de Oro, Iligan, La Union, and Maasin.

The official birth of the Apostleship of the Sea in Cebu took place in 1991 with the formal assignment of Father Roland Doriol, a Jesuit priest and former seaman, as chaplain of the Apostleship of the Sea Ministry in Cebu by Cardinal Ricardo Vidal. As he conducted his apostolate for the next two years, the establishment of a Seafarer’s Center remained just a dream until January 1993 when the Apostleship of the Sea-Cebu Stella Maris Seafarers Center, through the support and cooperation of Cebu Ports Authority, was finally established inside the Cebu Ports Authority parking zone, it was initially housed in two donated container vans. Another container van was added in 1995 to allow the Center to expand its services.
Stella Maris Seafarers Center in Cebu was borne out of the conviction and inspiration that something should be done in Cebu regarding seafarer’s welfare. As the recognized hub of shipping activities in the country, Cebu is an ideal location for such apostolate, notwithstanding its strategic geographical location in international and inter-island shipping.


The vision of AOS Cebu-Stella Maris Seafarer’s Center is a pastoral maritime center with multi-sectoral involvement and commitment, offering holistic formation, supportive networks for seafarers, their families and the rest of the maritime community. Among its pastoral tasks or missions are:

— To offer welcome and friendship, uphold the dignity and rights,
— Provide network for information, communication,
— Assist maritime students, seafarers and families,
— Undertake projects to promote their welfare, and
— Provide shelter for rescuers and victims during emergency operation in case of maritime disasters.

Its objectives are:

— To offer liturgical services and spiritual guidance,
— Provide accommodation, recreation, legal assistance and other services,
— Provide psychological counseling,
— Offer value formation seminars,
— Offer livelihood and skills training to all the beneficiaries within the maritime sector,
— To serve as maritime resources and research center and information, and
— To initiate environmental protection programs and projects.

Todays the Center has established linkages and networks with the different government offices and agencies whose activities and functions involve the seafarers, such as the Cebu Port Authority, MARINA, Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, the OWWA; with maritime schools and training centers in Cebu and throughout the country, as well as the academic and research schools such as the Ateneo de Manila University, the University of the Philippines, and the University of San Agustin of Iloilo; shipping companies; with other national and international Seafarer’s Centers run by different ecumenical denominations as in the field of maritime pastoral care cooperation is very much necessary; and with other religious and sectoral organizations that deal with the seamen and their families such as the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines and the International Transport Federation.

Cebu, being the home of several maritime universities, colleges, and training centers that train a sizeable portion of Filipino youngsters who choose a maritime career, is also the home of hundreds of present and future seamen.


Aside from its regular apostolic activities, the Center takes part in the upgrading course on PADAMS for seamen, and discusses the spiritual aspects on drug and alcohol abuse on their family relations. Seminar-sessions, value formation program for maritime students, veteran seamen and seamen’s wives are also organized.
During these seminar sessions, veteran seamen speak out and share not only their experiences of life at sea but also their complicated and fragile relationships with those on land – their family life and problems. Seafarer’s wives also speak and share their experiences and sacrifices on problems of raising a seaman’s family and the hardships of maintaining family ties. These seminar sessions hope to serve as counterpoints to the unrealistic expectations that many maritime students have when they chose a maritime career on the basis of high economic prospects and returns – things that future seamen do not learn in classrooms. Also these seminar sessions will hopefully make them better prepared to embark on a life at sea.

When AOS-Cebu started its operation, apostolic activities were introduced and within a short span of time, these activities were expanded in order to be able to serve the needs of the seafarers’ families and relatives.

The Center is staffed by a number of maritime students and a number of volunteer seafarers’ wives and Sr. Nena P. Villalon of Living the Gospel Community.


Over the past decade, AOS Cebu Stella Maris Seafarers Center has served as a welcoming haven for seafarers, their families, maritime students, and other maritime sectors of Cebu.

It has also extended hospitality to seafarers and the rest of the maritime community and extended valuable services such as scholarship to selected maritime students, missionary leadership among seafarers’ and families; human and spiritual formation for maritime students; holding of seminars, meetings, workshops and conferences for local or international audiences; and promoting seafarers’ welfare in coordination with government and other concerned non-governmental agencies which were extended to everyone without distinction of the race, culture and religion.

The Center receives generous support from the Archdiocese of Cebu and financial donations from the French NGO CCFD. And most of all, it receives a sustaining support from Fr. Roland Doriol who unselfishly shares his pension and honorarium pay from maritime schools.

With the growth and development of the center’s services and programs, the present three container vans that house the Seafarers Center and its tenurial security at the Cebu Port Authority’s parking grounds have become a concern.


A feasibility study was conducted from June to September of 2001 to assess the need to establish a bigger and permanent Seafarers Center. During the launching of its feasibility study on 28 September 2001, a memorandum of agreement was signed with Aboitiz Corporation for the purchase of the two lots located within the Port of Cebu as the future site of the permanent AOS – Stella Maris Seafarers Center of Cebu.

The acquisition and construction cost a sizeable amount and due to the sizeable amount of funding requirement, the AOS Cebu Ministry was forced to ask asked for donations, especially from international sources.

On November 2001, the AOS Cebu Ministry applied for the funding of its project with the International Transport Federation Seafarer’s Trust based in London, England, and in August 2002, the Board of Directors of the International Transport Federation Seafarer’s Trust approved the Center’s application for funding.
To be constructed on 3,833-square meter lot located near Pier 4, the proposed Seafarers Center will incorporate provision for lodging rooms available for rent to transient seamen and their families, a couple of function rooms for seminars and conventions, a canteen, a souvenir shop, an Internet cafe shop, and other services as possible for income-generation to ensure the Center’s continued existence.
Another feature of the Center is that its sports/recreational room and facilities will be free-of-charge for visiting seamen and their families.

Indeed, the next decade of the AOS Cebu Seafarers’ Center would be a period of growth and development for its targeted beneficiaries.

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