CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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St. Peter’s Church temporarily relocates to Saigon Street

HONG KONG (SE): St. Peter’s Church, which serves seafarers at the Mariners’ Club, Tsim Sha Tsui, is temporarily relocating to 3/F, Chi Wo Commercial Building, 20 Saigon Street, Jordan. Mass will be celebrated at the temporary address until the completion of redevelopment of the club, which is scheduled for 2023. 
 
The new premises was blessed during a Mass concelebrated on March 3 by vicar general, Father Benedict Lam Cho-ming, the parish priest and port chaplain, Father Valan Arasu Arockiaswamy, and other priests. Leaders of other Christian denominations serving seafarers also attended.
 
Father Arockiaswamy told the Kung Kao Po on March 5 that the community of the Apostleship of the Sea prays for mariners every day. He assures that the pastoral work and the community relationship built up over half-a-century will not be interrupted by the redevelopment project. With the support of donations, he decided to rent a place in a commercial building to continue the services for the mariners. 
 
According to Father Arockiaswamy, in Tsimshatsui. around 300 people Mass would attend Mass on Sunday mornings, around 200 in the evenings and about 50 to 70 during weekday Masses.
 
He hopes they will continue to attend Mass at the new chapel.
 
The Divine Word Missionary from India said as the Tsimshatsui premises used to be shared by different denominations, he would be glad to let various Church groups as well as communities serving mariners use the new premises if they make reservations in advance. 
 
He said that the services of the Church are not limited by religion or language and he is happy to pray for non-Christians and their families.
 
Speaking of his shipboard service, the priest said brings phone cards and religious publications to seafarers. Instead of doing any hard-selling on religion, he spends most of his time showing concern for their lives. However, subjects about faith would also be discussed when he talks about his pastoral work.
 
Deacon Nestor Kwan Chung-wai, who assists the port chaplaincy, said he believes the new location of the church is still convenient for seafarers, visitors and Filipino communities as it is close to the MTR station.
 
Deacon Kwan accompanies Father Arockiaswamy to public piers or dockyards to visit the seafarers. He also supports newly assigned missionaries of other denominations and works as a translator when they encounter seafarers from mainland China who cannot speak English.
 
The Mariners’ Club at Tsimshatsui was established in 1967 to provide clubhouse services as well as board and lodging to mariners. It was the Anglican Communion that first established pastoral services for mariners in Hong Kong. It became interdenominational afterwards as the Apostleship of the Sea (Stella Maris), the mission for seafarers, joined the service in 1969. 
 
Two other Christian communities which later joined the ecumenical team were the Danish Seamen’s Church in 1981, and the German Seamen’s Church in 1997.
 
The old chapel in Tsimshatsui concluded services after a closing ceremony officiated by Archbishop Paul Kwong of the Anglican Communion on February 27. The four communities still offer services at the other Mariners’ Club in Kwai Chung.
 
Father Arockiaswamy said the four groups still meet regularly to pray and to discuss their plans. He said they shared their inspirations, as well as a boat, known as Dayspring, for heading out to minister to seamen on their ships.
 
According to a report in the South China Morning Post on 5 March 2017, the redeveloped building will be a composite facility consisting of a new Mariners’ Club on the lower levels and a commercial hotel on the upper floors.
 
Christian communities serving seafarers will celebrate Sea Sunday, which falls on the second Sunday of July, to encourage people to pray for them and support the pastoral workers. 
 
According to the latest manpower report released by an international shipping association in May 2016, there are around 1.6 million mariners around the world,. China, the Philippines as well as Indonesia are estimated to be the three largest suppliers of all seafarers.  

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