Seafarers Experience a Ministry of Hospitality for 50 Years in the Twin Ports
NORTHLAND UNCOVERED: The Ministry of Seafarers
DULUTH, Minn. – When ships come to the Twin Ports those on board are usually far from home, their families, things that are familiar to them.
The Twin Ports is one of the farthest Western points ships can travel on the great lakes. Crew members facing tough conditions for months at a time.
“Probably the shortest amount of time that they have a contract on a ship would be four months, otherwise many of them are on for seven to nine months out of the year and they’re away from their families,” Reverend Doug Paulson.
In 1964, Rev. Norbert Mokros saw a need to help the seafarers coming into the ports.
“They were able to go to the ships in those days and they could take people off if they needed medical care, if they needed supplies, if they needed just pretty much anything,” Paulson said.
For five years, Mokros traveled the world to find out what life was like for the seafarers back at home and see what he could do to make things better for them while they were staying here in the Northland.
“From that point on, fifty years ago, the ministry has been a ministry of hospitality to meet the needs of those seafarers who come in on the international ships,” Paulson said.
In 1975, the ministry moved into the St. Clements rectory, providing shelter there for the sea men.
“Early on it was really important to use the phone systems here to be able to contact families back in their home countries,” Paulson said.
Today the ministry operates differently.
Technology has changed, contacting home is easier for the seafarers, but the struggle of being in a foreign land for many remains.
“They come here and talk to their families and the kids are crying, ‘Daddy, when are you coming back?’ it’s tough…it’s really difficult for those people, but they have to do it, they have to support their family,” ministry volunteer Mike Jaros said.
And ministry volunteers are doing whatever they can to say thank you for their sacrifice.
“These seafarers are providing something for our economy that is so important and so essential and so this is one way that we can say we care about you, thank you for what you’re doing, we know that you’re away from your families for a long period of time and so we want you to know that we appreciate who you are and what you do,” Paulson said.
Recently, the ministry began extending services to more than just visitors from ships. The Seafarers Center on West 3rd street is now open to any one in need of shelter or food, specifically in the Lincoln Park neighborhood.