Help floods in after Sister’s sailors SOS

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Sr Mary Leahy has spent the past 20 years helping those who earn a living on the seas and said she has never seen conditions so desperate. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

An overwhelming response to seafarers’ appeal is sweet

Donations from across the country and gratitude from around the world have been flooding in for the tireless work being done by a Sydney religious sister supporting the seafarers visiting our shores.

Known as the “angel of the waterfront”, Sister Mary Leahy has spent the past 20 years helping those who earn a living on the seas and said she has never seen conditions so desperate.

Trapped on what has been described as “floating prisons”, many of the world’s 1.6 million seafarers already at sea for up to nine months have no real sign of when they will be able to return home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The quietly spoken Josephite sister issued an urgent appeal for personal hygiene products including shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, deodorant and razors, as well as knitted beanies and chocolates to put together care packages for the sailors, and admits to being overwhelmed by the huge response.

However, it’s the messages of gratitude from the exhausted seafarers globally that has made her even more committed to providing not only practical but spiritual support at this time of great need.

“I really cannot believe the response since the stories appeared in The Catholic Weekly,” the nautical nun said.

“I’ve been contacted by people around the country wanting to donate items for the seafarers as well as receiving messages of thanks from the seafarers themselves. I had messages from India, China, Myanmar, The Philippines, Africa, Poland, the Ukraine, Malaysia and Indonesia, thanking me for what I am doing.

“I have received gifts and monetary donations from people near and far, from NSW and interstate, from maritime workers and private individuals.

“I hope the appeal not only raises donations but also awareness of the seafarers who transport 98 per cent of goods to our shores and whose lives are lived out in danger of piracy, abuse, cruel working conditions with very low wages and always in isolation from loved ones.”

Parish priest of St Jerome’s Punchbowl, Fr Joseph Gedeon, said that despite the challenging environment they wanted to do everything they could to support the appeal and donated more than 150 beautiful Easter chocolate lambs, which usually raises well over $1500 for charity.

“It has been a tough year for all our families and friends, especially experiencing the lockdown during the pinnacle of our Catholic faith liturgical year, Easter,” he said.

“However, we saw the urgent appeal from Sr Mary Leahy to help the seafarers as an opportunity to bring joy to people’s hearts in these troubled times.

The chocolate lambs are a traditional fundraiser for Easter and served moreover as a wonderful donation to the seafarers. Photo: Alphonsus Fok

“The chocolate lambs are a traditional fundraiser for Easter at St Jerome’s however due to the lockdown it was not able to go ahead but served moreover as a wonderful donation to the seafarers.

“Funds raised from the sale of the chocolates would normally go towards assisting the Parish and the Michaelite priests, who bring the message of Christ to the people of Papua New Guinea.”

Donations can be left at selected parishes including St Andrew Malabar; St Charles Borromeo Ryde; Our Lady Star of the Sea Miranda, All Saints Liverpool and Mary Immaculate Waverly or you can send directly to Sr Mary Leahy at Stella Maris, 43 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, NSW, 2009.

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