A priest who provided pastoral support to cruise ship crews has been made an Auxiliary Bishop by Pope Francis.
Fr Paul Mason, a former cruise chaplain with seafarers’ charity Apostleship of the Sea (AoS), was appointed Auxiliary Bishop to the Catholic Diocese of Southwark on April 23.
The 53 year-old who was born in North Shields will be ordained in Saint George’s Cathedral, Southwark, London on May 31. He is a priest of the Archdiocese of Southwark, and has been the Episcopal Vicar for Kent for the past 2 years.
During his time as an AoS cruise chaplain Fr Mason provided support to seafarers on board P&O’s Adonia, Aurora and Oceana as well as Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth.
Despite being among the thousands of passengers and crew members on cruises, Fr Mason was easy enough to spot in his clerical dress.
He soon became the go-to person for crew and passengers who needed a listening ear and a confidante with whom they could share their worries and problems.
Never mind that Fr Mason was classified as an ‘entertainer’ for purposes of the contract with the shipping company:
“This didn’t worry me. They could have called me the chief bottle-washer so long as I was given the opportunity to provide this ministry and sacramental support to seafarers.”
He added, “It became clear to me early on that Apostleship of the Sea is quite right prioritising crews’ welfare. While of course being present for passengers is important, the overwhelming need is for the crew, who spend months at sea with limited contact with family and loved ones, and go for months at a time without the sacraments.”