Bishop Paul Mason, Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark, has been appointed new Bishop Promoter for the Apostleship of the Sea (AoS) in England and Wales.
He takes over from Bishop Tom Burns SM, Bishop of Menevia.
Born in North Shields, Tyne and Wear, close to the coast, Bishop Mason was very aware of the ship building tradition around the Tyne, and many of his schoolmates’ fathers worked at Swan Hunter in Wallsend.
Moving away from the North East in 1982 and away from the sea, his next encounter with shipping was at quite the other end of the scale – he was asked by AoS if he would be available to work as a chaplain on a cruise ship and went on board during Easter and Christmas in 2012 and 2013.
“Like many, I did not appreciate the unseen work of thousands upon thousands of seafarers, and so many are Catholic,” says Bishop Mason.
“When you say Mass at midnight (at end of the crews’ working day) and you have a large congregation down in the bowels of the vessel singing Silent Night in Force 8 (gales), the enthusiasm and devotion is quite overwhelming…and the irony doesn’t escape you. And of course, each of those voices has a story.
“The focus of the chaplain is on the crew, at sea for months, working long hours and far from family, friends and the Sacraments,” he adds.
Bishop Mason says, “The support AoS offers up and down the country to all seafarers is by and large unseen, just as those to whom they minster can be unseen.
“It is vital work that brings practical help, prayer, sacramental care and fellowship to so many. As Bishop Promoter I hope I will be able to continue the long tradition we have in the Church of supporting seafarers and ensuring they do not remain unseen.”