Stella Maris interview
Stella Maris, the human face of the port
Marisa Metrangolo, President of the Associazione Stella Maris Taranto
I am Marisa Metrangolo, I am the President of the Stella Maris Association of Taranto.
On a national level all the Stella Maris branches are linked together in a National Federation of Stella Maris.
We started about 100 years ago in Glasgow as a lay association and have been present in Taranto for about 50 years.
We are concerned with the human face of the port, i.e. we take care of the people who work on board the ships and we do it by providing a welcome that is defined as “a home away from home”.
Precisely because seafarers now travel the world and are always strangers in every port they go to, they try to find a welcoming place as if it were home.
Closeness to seafarers
About 50,000 seafarers a year pass through the port of Taranto, and so by going on board we try to get to know their
When they feel they’re in a friendly environment, a welcoming environment, it is then, with a person who wants to help them, who wants to listen to them, they open up.
But even in the regular life of a seafarer, unfortunately, they have problems, in the sense that they may not be paid on time and very often the food is not very good either.
The first condition that seafarers experience is that of loneliness because sailors live on board a ship and they are a small community of about 10, 20, 30 people depending on the size of the merchant ship.
And these people are far from their own families, they are far from their own country, they don’t know the language of the city at which they arrive.
And on board they live in this small community but they are of many different nationalities and they are of many different religions, different cultures.
So it’s difficult for there to be a bond between them, and so they need this when they arrive in a port, if there is a visit the most important thing for them is to talk about their family.
In the international arena, action has now been taken for their rights and the 2006 MLC has been brought forward, which has finally been ratified by the Italian government
It is a United Nations convention which underlines the importance that seafarers, both on board and in ports, should be looked after and have services provided for them, that is to say, there must be the possibility for them to have a meeting place, there must be transportation because they disembark from the ships and are often far from the port entrance.
So the services that the city should provide in the port for seafarers are essential.
The Apostleship of the Sea, a mission of humanity
Don Ezio Succa, Chaplain, Stella Maris Taranto
I have been on a mission for fifteen years.
I’ve been in Mexico, Bangladesh, India and Guatemala, and so for me being in the midst of other cultures and other religions,
other languages such as Spanish and English, has been the impetus to do my service here at Stella Maris.
It’s a reality that people don’t know and it’s a reality that embraces the world.
Usually the crew is a family made up of many people of different religions, different cultures, and when the majority of the crew, who are Indians, Filipinos, are Catholics, we celebrate mass, which is a beautiful moment.
And within this context there are also other religions present, which are not always so easy in that situation to have a dialogue with, but yet the fact of being able to enter and often – when you could before covid, always – you ate with them.
Sharing meals is the way to create a fraternity that goes beyond religion.
This is the way to transmit precisely this universal love, in which differences are not obstacles but a gift, because even being Muslim or Hindu is a gift for humanity.
The life of seafarers is an extreme life, it is not normal, that is, their home, work, is all there, on the ship, for months.
So even small gestures take on enormous value.
And one episode that has stayed with me is that of Thomas, an Indian boy, who had an accident on the ship while he was here in Taranto, where he had fractured his pelvis.
Then through the various organisations that are present here in the port, he was first operated on and then had a long period of rehabilitation.
He was hospitalised for months, first in Taranto and then in Fragagnano, and people came to visit him as if he were a son.
And he felt really loved because he was alone, in a foreign country, he didn’t even speak Italian.
It was something really beautiful for him and he still remembers it today, although years have now passed.
So this reality is something that does good, the volunteers represent the most beautiful presence because they are the ones who go, who see, who care, so it’s also a way of creating a little humanity in this world.
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