by Br. Colin King, OFM
On June 5th, Fr. E. J. Stein, OFM, and I boarded the MV Iron Anne, a ship sailing under the Marshall Islands flag with a crew of Filipinos. This ship was being loaded with tons of grain to feed the people of Iraq. Unfortunately, during parts of the 30-plus day voyage to Iraq they must sail through pirated waters. The crew asked Karen Parsons, the chaplain at the Galveston Seafarers Center and a Secular Franciscan, to have a priest board the ship, say Mass and bless the crew and vessel. So, Fr. E.J. and I did just that, with the help of Karen.
On Tuesday afternoon, Karen picked Fr. E.J. and myself up from the friary and drove us to the port where we had to get through security. Once we got to the ship, which was MASSIVE, crew members came down the gangway and picked up some toiletry supplies from the Seafarers Center. Once we were aboard the ship a member led us to the officers’ mess hall, where they had created an altar with two chairs and an ironing board. Fr. E.J. brought all the necessary supplies for Mass.
After Mass, he blessed everything from the bridge down to the engine room (which was hotter than a typical Galveston afternoon) and objects crew members brought to him. Before we left, Karen, Fr. E.J., and I ate some pastries the chef had prepared.
This alone was a truly amazing experience. However, to make this experience more interesting, a few days later we found out that the crew thought the ship was haunted and the crew believed the prayers/blessing had done their job: Karen Parsons relayed a message from the crew just before they left port. “I was just out on the Iron Anne and the crew is reporting that all the strange unexplained activity has subsided since the blessing. No more late night knocks on cabin doors, no more water faucets turning on by themselves, etc. They are very happy! The power of prayer is awesome!”
By the way: This was the first of two blessings E.J. has done to haunted spaces since I have arrived, the other being a house he blessed recently.
(Friar Colin King is beginning his second year of Temporary Vows and is spending the summer in Galveston, Texas, working with Holy Family Parish and St. Patrick Friary and Parish.)
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