This is not a religious post.

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It was a beautiful Sunday morning and we arrived early for the 9am Mass at Westminster Cathedral. The morning couldn’t have been more perfect.

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The priest introduced Fr Noel from Apostleship of the Sea, a small mission that serves all seafarers, regardless of religion.

Fr Noel and his priests go onboard ships that dock in ports all over the UK and some places of the world where they have a mission.  There is a huge population of seafarers that we often don’t realise or think about, he said, though their fingerprints are in our everyday life. Look at your mobile phone, for example. Most of the components, or indeed, your phone itself, came by sea to you in all likelihood.

One day, Fr Noel went on a ship. The crew were Indians, Turkish and Georgians. They worked on board a ship that took them far from their motherlands for the sole purpose of supporting their families, rather than for the glamour of international travels. The two Georgian brothers have a sick father at home whom they were desperate to return to, yet they cannot afford the fares.

The crew of this particular ship had not been paid for 8 months. They showed Fr Noel two pieces of paper. One was the official one that they have to show Immigration Officers, stating that they earn U$1200 a month.  The other piece of paper is the ‘real’ contract, which they signed up to, namely, they are employed for a measly U$260 a month!!!

To make matters worse, these seamen agreed to pay their agent U$1,000 from their salary …… they have not been paid for 8 months by their unscrupulous employers, and they still owed U$1,000 to their unscrupulous agents.

Fr Noel was furious at the pulpit (but in a very controlled professional way) and I felt as if I was attending a political rally instead of Mass. The real, living presence of God is in going out there and helping these people, he said. In this instance, we were lucky as we were able to help the seamen; we were able to send the Georgian brothers home to see their gravely ill father and were able to give the other crew money for their families.

It added a sombre tone to my sunny Sunday (I was not as cheerful when I came out of Mass) but it opened my eyes to the unseen, marginalised and abused people who made my mobile phone possible.

If you want to read more about Apostleship of the Sea, please read the article I wrote last year here. This is where Fr Noel works: Apostleship of the Sea Bristol.