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Christmas 2007: Gdynia, Poland

Fr Edward Pracz, AOS port chaplain in Gdynia, Poland, describes the Christmas celebrations for seafarers and shipyard workers of all faiths

In the early hours of the morning on Christmas Day, the seafarers were driven to the Stella Maris Club in Gdynia which was beautifully decorated for the Christmas Party. The seafarers were given the texts of Christmas carols and songs. The celebration began with the song “This is the day that the Lord has made”. Next we sang the Christmas carol “Silent Night”. Then the Kashubian folk band played “Jingle Bells”.

Then I spoke to the seafarers. I explained the meaning of Christmas and why we meet. We meet in the Name of Jesus Christ who comes to us as a baby but it is by Him that everything, including our humanity, was created. He came to teach us how to live and love other people and show us the way of our salvation. Among the seafarers, there were Catholics and also members of other religions and denominations. I told the Russian and Ukrainian seafarers that their grandparents who taught them their faith passed it straight to their hearts as, during the seventy years of Communism, they had no access to churches.

One of the Filipino seafarers read from the Gospel of Luke about the birth of Jesus. Then we shared a Polish custom. I took a white wafer and explained that it is a symbol of mutual love, kindness and also the work of human hands. When we share the wafer, we think about our loved ones and, in this way, we share the bread with them. Sharing the wafer with the seafarers is a sign that we are one big family. I told them that Stella Maris is their home around the world.

Then the party started. The seafarers received gifts of wall calendars, sweets, fruit and CDs. Then they telephoned their families or contacted them by Internet. Most importantly, some of the seafarers attended Holy Mass.

There are around hundred workers from India employed in the shipyards of Gdynia and Gdańsk. Naturally Stella Maris takes care of them as well. Some of them stayed at the AOS centre in Kashuby over Christmas. Midnight Mass was celebrated for them and members of other religions also participated. Christmas was extremely busy time for me but very satisfying.

Fr Edward leads prayers before the party


bove: musicians in traditional Polish costume play for seafarers


ght: a Filipino seafarer reads from the Gospel


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