What is the Password?

The spirituality of our mission

Introduction / What is the password? / What is the Stella Maris authenticated password? / Conclusion

On the 17th of April 1922, the then Apostleship of the Sea (AOS), through a letter from the Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Gasparri, received the approval and encouragement of Pope Pius XI, who wished that “so noble an enterprise” would “spread more and more along the shores of both hemispheres.”

Fast forward to the 4th of October 2020, Stella Maris should have celebrated its Centennial Anniversary here in Glasgow. But Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine are strong reminders that a ‘smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.’ Nevertheless, here we are, after having navigated through the pandemic waters which were not smooth at all. For sure, the pandemic storm made us a more skillful and faithful Stella Maris team.

During the pandemic, people needed to transact more business and do more tasks online. They needed to create and remember a lot of passwords.

What is the password?

Let us ask ourselves: How many passwords do I have to memorize or save? Some examples: Social Media related? Internet? Banking system? Cellphone? Desktop? Online services? Food delivery? Health? Social benefits? Locker? Door? Money transfer? Secure documents? Database? TV program access? Games? Hotel? Airline? Immigration? Funding partner? Government agencies? Civil organizations? Charitable institutions? Parish? Diocese? Vatican? Port and ship access? Marine traffic websites? And, of course, Stella Maris Center! And the list is nearly endless. Perhaps it’s easier to ask: where do we not need a password?

Stella Maris-Manila’s free Wi-Fi services were made available in January 2015. In those days and in the years to follow until the pandemic, we would have in our 3 centers, nearly 250 seafarers/day. Now, we are down to half of that number. It is our observation that our interaction with them has changed dramatically. Not that long ago, upon the arrival of a seafarer or a fisher in our Centers, after questions like ‘How are you doing,’ ‘How is life,’ How is your deployment,’ ‘How is your family,’ there would be a short dialogue, a few laughs, some orientation and guidance about the Stella Maris services. This initial non-password dialogue was important and crucial for a deeper interaction, especially on personal matters and or issues. With this initial communication, the code was cracked! No password was needed or required!

Indeed, social media platforms made communication easier, better, and faster. The irony is that at the same time, it is making human interaction more difficult, worse, and slower. Human interaction acquired a code very difficult to crack. The truth is, human interaction became like a password highly protected that requires to be entered and re-entered every time we meet a seafarer or fisher. The world of passwords has become an environment that promotes individualism, isolation, and the feeling of being connected to the world but perhaps disconnected from one’s self and the Stella Maris team. No wonder why now, some of us may experience that the first question of a seafarer or a fisher is: “What is the password?” ‘Never mind’ the old usual greeting style of communication, ‘never mind’ the one next to me, ‘never mind’ the Stella Maris team, ‘never mind’ the programs and services. Just give me the password. And in the current social media universe, passwords are becoming the answer to one’s possible inner needs and dreams. Is this an exaggeration or is it part of the reality that a number of us face on a daily basis?

The present social media reality requires that a Stella Maris Center provides free internet access to the people of the sea. And indeed, it is a noble and needed service. However, without passing any judgment, let us think: are these seafarers or fishers in touch with themselves? Do they communicate between or among themselves? Do they talk to their loved ones? Do they still connect with the Stella Maris team? Or, do they get drowned and lost in the sea of websites and or social media services sometimes unnecessary?

Since its very beginnings, the spirituality of Stella Maris focuses on the person, namely, the seafarer not on passwords (recently we have added fishers and their families)! In these more than 100 years of ministry, the Stella Maris services have evolved tremendously. In John 21:3, Simon Peter said: “I am going fishing.” More than 100 years ago, Stella Maris team went out fishing. And the Gospel continues: “And although there were so many, the net was not torn.” (John 21:11).

This Centennial moment in Glasgow is the evidence that we have become many but the Stella Maris net is not torn. The initial inspiration and foundation remain intact, contrary to the current password-oriented world.

One of the definitions of a password is: “a string of characters used to verify the identity of a user during the authentication process.” Stella Maris team has developed and kept its ‘identity’ for more than 100 years. Seafarers and fishers have ‘verified’ and ‘logged-in’ in this identity for more than a century. The log-in “process” in terms of services and ministry has been authenticated for more than 10 decades. This means our password has been consistently secure, safe, and easy to remember because our focus is on the person not on the gadget or numbers. The log-in code is in the heart of every single Stella Maris worker. Yes, Stella Maris went out fishing and the net is full because the spirituality of our password/services is easily identified, remembered, and authenticated. It is a spirituality that remains connected to the words of Jesus. The Stella Maris team authenticated password, is one of the reasons we are here celebrating the Centennial.

What is the Stella Maris authenticated password?

A breakwater wall is a permanent structure constructed in a coastal area to protect against tides, currents, waves, and storm surges. Seafarers and fishers are very familiar with it when leaving or returning to a port.

Making use of our new logo and its meaning, the Stella Maris breakwater could be called WALLS, the authenticated Stella Maris password. And WALLS stands for:

The Waves of the Sea (W): Symbol of the new conscience of caring for the sea (environment) and for those who live and work at sea. Let us provoke not only a wave but a tsunami of conscious people supporting the people of the sea. We have heard many times: No shipping, no shopping! No fishers no fish! But how many of us have added: Thank you, seafarers! Thank you, fishers! Seafarers and fishers are not ‘commodities’ and in the Stella Maris world there are no strangers, only people we have not yet met. As Jesus said: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25:35).

The Anchor (A): Symbol of Hope. Covid-19 has highlighted the isolation and lack of shore leave faced by many seafarers and fishers. A number of them contacted the Stella Maris team for help in seeking justice. Hope is the password we should provide to all seafarers and fishers arriving at our Centers. After all, for seafarers and fishers a Stella Maris Center should really be “a home away from home.”

The Lifesaver (L): Symbol of Faith. It is very sad when we come to know that a seafarer has taken extreme action against his or her life; again, the pandemic and the invasion of Ukraine have exacerbated this reality. We need to re-enter the password called faith, the Lifesaver. Faith is further strengthened when the people of the sea experience appreciation and trust. Lifesaver means trust in God, trust in themselves, trust in their families, and trust in the Stella Maris team.

The Rays of Light (L): Symbol of the Light of Christ. “The life of sailors or fishermen and their families is very difficult,” said Pope Francis. These people of the sea have to experience that Stella Maris is the lighthouse, leading to Christ, the ultimate Light: a Light that cracks any password or code, a light that never fades, a light leading to a safe and final destination port.

The Sacred Heart of Jesus (S): Symbol of Charity. Stella Maris is a house of charity. As the saying goes: “Charity begins at home.” We certainly face stormy seas to be able to keep sailing and provide the password called ‘charity,’ expressed in the variety of our services. Our ability to keep the “so noble an enterprise” and “not torn the net” will depend on our capability to keep in touch with the seafarers and fishers and connect them to Christ.

Conclusion: WALLS

These values, namely, new conscience, hope, faith, light, and charity, emanate from Christ, the Fisher. We believe that these are the core values of a Stella Maris team. They are the basis and foundation of our spirituality.

Last year Pope Francis addressed seafarers and fishers with these words: “You are not forgotten!” We, as Stella Maris team, must remain focused on the person, on the net of Jesus, on the WALLS core values and spirituality, on the noble enterprise as Pope Pius XI said, by creating a home-away-from-home environment for seafarers, fishers, and their families. By doing so, we can truly repeat the words of Pope Francis: “You are not forgotten.” Therefore, should we change our password? Not at all! But what is the password? Hopefully, Stella Maris!