A simple yes leads to small miracle at Camden port

A simple yes leads to small miracle at Camden port

camdenport1-webLeft, a young man holds a statue of Mary at the Camden port. Below, Deacon Felix Tito Miranda poses with seafarers on ship after celebrating the Liturgy of the Word.

Monday, Aug. 24, was like any other Monday. After stopping at Sacred Heart Church in South Camden, I headed over to the Seafarer’s Center at the South Jersey Port where the Diocese of Camden has a ministry to serve seafarers. I made quick inspection of the center and then went to the docked ships to meet the ‘kids.”

I call them kids because they’re young, usually between 19-25. Most are from the Philippines or India and are Catholic. My visit usually begins by driving them to the Deptford Mall, or taking them to Western Union so they can wire money home. Then we return to the center where they can call home, work on the computers, listen to music, and read books from the center’s small library. They also like to eat chocolate, and I always make sure there is plenty for them. The “kids” cherish these simple pleasures — they are on board ship nine months at a time; moreover, they need a pass to get off the ship, and even then are restricted to the port in Camden. My visit ends with a prayer service.

camdenport2-webOn this day, Tom Ita, another volunteer, received a call from the Seamen’s Church Institute in Philadelphia, asking if we could have an additional service on a docked ship because no one had passes to disembark. We were being asked to have the service at 5 p.m., and we have our prayer service at the center at 6:30 p.m, so it was no problem.

Or so we thought. When we arrived at the ship we realized there was a miscommunication. The service was being requested for 10 a.m. the next day, when I was scheduled to work at the Diocesan Tribunal. But these kids had been at sea for six months and were headed to China. They really wanted to attend the Liturgy of the Word, so I made arrangements to return the following day, at 2 p.m., after my work in the Tribunal.

The next day I went to the ship with Rosemary McBride, the liaison between Sacred Heart Church and the port. We found the captain and 20 seafarers eagerly waiting for us. After worship there was fellowship and they made us feel like family, and some timidly asked for a blessing. When Rosemary and I left, the captain asked one of the kids to escort us.

“Maybe you can help me,” the young man said to me.

Not knowing what was coming, I was wary. We were at the car and Rosemary asked me to move so she could get something from the trunk. The kid and I moved about 10 feet, and he told me he learned earlier that day that his mother has cancer. All he wanted was a small statue or cross so he could pray for her well being.

It was at that moment Rosemary pulled a statue of Our Lady from her trunk. She walked over and handed it to him.

He reacted with tears of joy as he held the statue to his chest. We didn’t hear the cranes operating or the wind blowing. Time seemed to stand still and I felt the importance of compassion, community and love. I experienced the greatness of the Lord, and that there can be some happiness even in sorrow.

For the rest of the week my mind wandered back to that moment when a young man received a gift that I expect will nourish his faith for the rest of his life. It made me think of how different his day may have been had I not changed my plans and gone to the ship. Had I said no, I would have missed out on what I personally see as a small miracle.

Miracles happen everyday in small and sometimes unknown ways. I am thankful that I was the yes that made the extraordinary happen that day.


Deacon Felix Tito Miranda is assigned to Sacred Heart Parish, Camden.


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