Priests of the sea — cruise ship chaplains

The man phoning Doreen Badeaux had recently lost his wife.

The two of them had been on a cruise to celebrate their anniversary, he told Badeaux, and it was during dinner one evening that they spotted the priest. They’d asked him to join them, and in introducing themselves, they shared that the wife was dying. The cruise was an item they were crossing off her “bucket list.”

Later in the cruise, they met the priest again — when they called him to their cabin because the wife was near death. And that was what the widower wanted Badeaux to know.

“He called and told me it was beautiful that her faith was there for her,” Badeaux recalled.

“Her faith was there for her in the middle of the ocean.”

As secretary general of Apostleship of the Sea USA, it is Badeaux’s job to ensure that cruise passengers’ and crewmembers’ faith is there for them while at sea. The “Cruise Ship Priest Program” screens and vets potential cruise-ship chaplains and works with partner cruise lines to place a Catholic chaplain on their ships. (AOS-USA is not to be confused with the Vatican’s Apostleship of the Sea, which falls under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, Refugees and Travelers.)

Cruise chaplains are quick to point out that they are continuing the missionary work of the early Church.

“It’s a great thing the passengers can get a Mass — but they’re generally going to be home in 11 days,” points out Father Sinclair Oubre. The diocesan director for Apostleship of the Sea for the Diocese of Beaumont, Texas, he has gone to sea as a merchant sailor for 20 of his last 30 summer vacations.

“For me personally, [this ministry is] for the crewmembers who may be [at sea] six to nine months. Our interest in this grew out of a desire to bring the Eucharist and the sacraments of the Church to seafarers — and we could do that by offering service to the cruise lines, having Mass on board for the passengers.” Continue reading


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