International beginnings of Stella Maris

In the late 1800’s various Catholic groups operated in major ports around the world.

For example, in December 1894, French Augustinians of the Assumption founded a society (the Societe des Oeuvres de Mer) to care for French seafarers and all those involved with deep sea fishing off Iceland, the Newfoundland Banks and the Faroes Islands.

In the late 1890’s members of St Vincent de Paul Society started a programme of ship visiting in many ports in Britain.

In Glasgow in 1894 Fr. Joseph Egger SJ inaugurated the first branch of the Stella Maris under the umbrella of the Apostleship of Prayer Society.

Stella Maris was approved by the Holy See in 1922.

It has developed into a worldwide pastoral and welfare organisation with 150 specifically Stella Maris Centres, and works with organisations from other churches in about 100 centres worldwide.

Its International Council is based in Rome.

The Laws and Constitution of the Apostleship of the Sea was approved by the Vatican in 1957.

The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People was instituted by Pope Paul VI in 1970 to be the Church’s umbrella organisation for pastoral care for people on the move — tourists, travellers, gypsies, refugees, immigrants, emigrants, fishers or other seafarers.

In 2018, under Pope Francis, the Pontifical Council was replaced by the Dicastery for Integral Human Development.

The norms promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1970 were updated by Pope John Paul II in 1997 in the Motu Proprio Stella Maris.   This was aimed at meeting the needs of special pastoral assistance for all those involved in commercial shipping and in fishing, as well as their families, port personnel and all who travel by sea.

Stella Maris national organisations have to keep in touch with one another. It does this by way of newsletters and at the 5 yearly World Congress.   The last 3 congresses and their themes were:

2002 – Brazil – meeting the challenge of the new globalised world

2007 – Poland – reflecting on the spirituality of SMNZ and its specific contribution to the maritime world

2012 – Vatican – New Evangelization in the Maritime World.

Our parishioners are seafarers and fishers on the move around the world, their families, and all those that work in ports.

The Apostleship of the Sea — Apostolatus Maris – often called Stella Maris, (Star of the Sea) after our patron, Mary, Star of the Sea, is not merely another organisation within the Church.   Rather it is an integral part of the pastoral structure and an official ministry of the Universal Church.

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