Bishop Brendan Cahill on the Importance of Maritime Ministry


On February 14, 2023, NAMMA visited Bishop Brendan Cahill in Victoria, Texas to learn about the importance of seafarers’ ministry. Bishop Cahill serves as the Bishop Promoter of Stella Maris in the United States. NAMMA visitors included Dcn. Paul Rosenblum and Dr. Jason Zuidema. Listen to the interview here or read below (lightly edited for clarity).

Jason Zuidema, NAMMA: Can you tell me why Maritime Ministry is so important?

Bishop Brendan Cahill: Maritime Ministry is so important because obviously so many of our brothers and sisters are involved with the maritime and many are away from home for long periods of time. And so for us, as the body of Christ, [it is] to keep in touch with our brothers and sisters when they’re away from home. For me, it’s been a tremendous learning experience. Especially as the bishop promoter, I see the larger picture of it. Wherever you go, if it’s Baltimore or Charleston or Point Comfort, you’ll see these ships coming through with the crews who are working hard and have a lot of struggles that they face on the day-to-day lives of spiritual journey.

So I think specifically we’re Christian and we follow the teachings of Jesus and Jesus taught us to be with people who may be seen on the peripheries, maybe unseen. I think that the maritime ministry is a specialized ministry where men and women learn about the ways to see what seafarers go through and are present to them and bring Jesus Christ to them, but also see Jesus Christ in them. So I find the maritime ministry very life-giving but also essential because we don’t want to leave any brothers or sisters behind.

NAMMA: Why is it so important that maritime ministry is done in an ecumenical sense? How would you encourage the Stella Maris representatives to work together with their ecumenical partners?

Bishop Cahill: Oh my goodness, it is huge. I say from a Catholic perspective you know we’re children of the Second Vatican Council and which was a time in which Pope John XXIII, well, they called us to look at the salvation of humanity. This is obviously our primary goal and always has been. And to realize that all of us are baptized in Christ and baptized in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that we share a bond in Jesus Christ and to work together when we can.

I love and enjoy ecumenical work with NAMMA because in a sense we can talk about our differences but we realize our similarities in Jesus Christ are greater than that. And we realize our common goal is eternal life and to see the value of every human life on earth in the light of Jesus Christ. I found that from the very beginning of my priesthood. Even in seminary, I got to have experience at the Houston Seafarers’ Center. It was very inspirational to me to see the Orthodox, the Protestant, the non-denominational, the Catholic, all the different Christian denominations working together. And I think it’s vital for the ministry that we’re not trying to fight each other. They were working together for the good of the seafarers and seafarers represent a multitude of religious backgrounds. I think there are ministers that can minister to them in their faith tradition.

NAMMA: You’ve been coming now to the NAMMA conference for a few years. What has been your experience of that conference and how would you encourage other Stella Maris participants to be part of it?

Bishop Cahill: Well, I’ll say this for me. As you know, we have different professional organizations, you have police, firefighters, Knights of Columbus or whatever organizations that are gathered around ideas or what you believe in. I think the maritime ministry is very unique and I think those of us who are really involved in it, we are working very hard. We’re doing our very best.

I think we can also say it can be isolating. Sometimes I’m so focused on what I’m doing here and so what a meeting like this that NAMMA has helps me get out of my ordinary and get with other men and women who share common values. They share a common vision and learn from what they’re doing. I mean that to me is the most exciting thing because I’m privileged to listen to people tell what they’re doing and the creativity and the ministry. Seattle is different than Oakland, different than Baltimore, different than Tampa, Florida, and you hear what different people are doing. And I share too a Stella Maris perspective because I’ll tell people no two ports are the same. I’m here on the Gulf Coast, and Point Comfort is different than Corpus Christi, different than Galveston, different than Houston, and with all the differences there are similarities. Seafarers are in a very unique culture, have unique personalities and are all beloved children are God. We believe beloved children of Jesus Christ. And so when you come to a convention, at least for me, what I find is I get out renewed and energized. I know you put great conferences together, but it’s meeting the people. It’s like a reunion to get back together and see everybody again, even my protestant brothers.

NAMMA: We’re recording this on February 14th, on Valentine’s Day. In our culture anyways, it’s a time to remember our special loved ones. What message do you have for seafarers and their families back home at a time when they might feel really far away from their families? What message would you have for them?

Bishop Cahill: Yeah, I think that’s the hardest thing. Some of these days are really hard, like Christmas and Easter, when you’re away from your families and the traditions that you’re used to. My sense is you’re not alone. There are people who love you, who are with you, that know what you’re going through, that have been there. I think that’s one of the beautiful things that I see to see in a ministry, in seafarer chaplains. They’ve been there, they know what seafarers are going through. So I think I want to tell you that you have men and women that love you, who know what you’re going through and are praying for you spiritually, for your strength in this time. And they pray for your families back home. They know the love that you have and the purpose for what you’re doing. So I think for me it’s a spiritual reality to know you’re always connected, you’re never fully alone.

NAMMA: thank you very much, Bishop Cahill, for your support of NAMMA and for your support of all seafarers’ welfare

Bishop Cahill: Thank you. Yes sir, God bless y’all. Thank you.


NAMMA members receive a print copy of The MARE Report, NAMMA’s annual magazines for seafarer’s welfare professionals