A barque with a Christogram imprinted on its sail is depicted in a stained-glass window at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Church in Deer Park, N.Y., in this 2017 file photo. (CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY — Ministering to seafarers and advocating for their rights and dignity can help bring these often invisible workers to the fore, said Cardinal Michael Czerny, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.

“‘Out of sight, out of mind’ is an adage that can apply to the invisibility of seafarers,” he wrote in the dicastery’s message for Sea Sunday, celebrated July 14 this year. Catholic communities around the world are called to pray for and recognize all those who work at sea, their families and those who support them.

“In all of humanity, seafarers are among the least visible members. Yet, it is through their hidden efforts that many of our necessities reach us,” he wrote in the message, which the Vatican released June 24. “They experience the boundless beauty of nature in the seas, yet they also encounter physical, spiritual and social darkness.”

Working at sea can mean being absent from home and land, for months and even years, the cardinal wrote. “The pay may make these sacrifices worthwhile, but that benefit may be threatened by injustices, exploitation and inequality.”

The cardinal praised those who advocate for the dignity and rights of seafarers, such as the volunteers, chaplains and members of local churches at the ports who engage in seafarer ministry.

“The ministry of the sea can help to bring the peripheral into the center in many ways, for example: by encountering the people of the sea in person and in prayer, improving the material and spiritual conditions of laborers, advocating for the dignity and rights of workers and championing strengthened international relations and policies to safeguard the human rights of those who travel and work far from their families and homelands,” he wrote.

“May we acknowledge the essential contribution of those whose work might otherwise remain invisible. May we support the ministry of welcoming those who need a listening ear and a place to belong, a safe harbor, a community that welcomes all who wish to return home,” he wrote.

“May we be inspired by the example of the mutual exchanges in the life of seafarers. May the people of the sea feel part of the church wherever they go,” Cardinal Czerny wrote.