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Mass remembers workers killed in bridge collapse, sailors, seafarers

During a prayer service and candlelit procession at Sacred Heart of Jesus/Sagrado Corazón de Jesús in Baltimore April 8, 2024, Manuel Alonso wears a custom shirt with the flags of national origin for the six crewmen who perished in the March 26 collapse of Baltimore's Francis Scott Key Bridge. (OSV News photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — The annual “Mass for the Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Mariners and People of the Sea” celebrated at the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington honored the memory of six Hispanic workers who lost their lives in the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore.

Taking place in the crypt of the basilica, the May 18 Mass included prayers to honor the men and women who have risked their lives and their vessels to ensure that supplies reach their destinations safely in times of peace and war.

At the beginning of his homily, Father Arthur Unachukwu, associate director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, asked the Virgin Mary to bring comfort to the families of migrant workers Miguel Luna, Maynor Yassir Suazo Sandoval, Dorlian Castillo Cabrera, Jose Mynor Lopez, Carlos Hernandez and Alejandro Hernandez Fuentes, who perished March 26. The six construction workers died after a large container ship lost power and collided into the bridge, precipitating its collapse.

“The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge evidenced the high risk that dock workers face every day as they go about their workday. Let us pray to God for the eternal rest of our deceased brothers and sisters and ask the Virgin Mary to accompany the families and survivors in their time of grief,” Father Unachukwu said.

The priest highlighted the role of the Catholic organization Stella Maris, which, after the freighter accident and bridge collapse, mobilized to offer spiritual and material help to the crew members of the cargo ship Dali, relatives of the victims, and federal agents involved in the rescue, salvage and civil protection operations.

He also said that the “church is always attentive to provide spiritual and human assistance to all her children,” especially to the people who work at sea, in the ports, and in the different maritime facilities, who, with their work, ensure the flow of goods around the world.

Father Unachukwu added that every May, different religious events are held in recognition of the “actions and sacrifices” made by sailors and port employees in tasks related to commerce and maritime transportation in the United States.

At the end of the Mass, those present participated in a procession inside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and prayed in front of the chapel erected in honor of Stella Maris.

In early May, Bishop Brendan J. Cahill of Victoria in Texas, the bishop-promoter of Stella Maris in the United States, renewed his invitation to the faithful to support, remember, and pray for the men and women who make their living working on the seas, including merchants, sailors, seafarers, fishermen, port personnel and people in the maritime industry.

“Each year, we pray for those who work on the high seas and the ports. In a special way this year, we remember those who have been impacted by the collapse of the Key Bridge, particularly the six construction workers who perished in the bridge collapse, and for their families as they mourn the loss of their loved ones,” Bishop Cahill wrote in a press release shared by USCCB ahead of National Maritime Day, which is observed May 22.

He also asked the faithful to pray for the cargo ship’s captain and crew and the countless people who have been working in the aftermath of the tragedy, including the U.S. Coast Guard, Army Corps of Engineers, dive teams, first responders, construction workers, law enforcement, and government officials. He added that thousands of dockworkers and those who rely on the Port of Baltimore for work are still dealing with the impact of this tragedy.

“Worldwide, there are countless men and women who labor on the high seas for their livelihood — let us seek the intercession of Our Lady, Star of the Sea, that she protects and guides us,” he noted.

By Miguel Vivanco | OSV News