“By virtue of baptism we’re God’s sons and daughters and we are called to proclaim him. Proclaim him at home — and at work in that confined ship.”Father Freddie Chua, associate pastor of Mary Star of the Sea Church in San Pedro, was speaking in his homily to crew members of the Golden Princess cruise ship, who listened attentively during noon Mass inside the Stella Maris Chapel in the port of San Pedro.The chapel and hospitality center are part of Mary Star’s Apostleship of the Sea Maritime Ministry, led by Father Chua. It is a calling he says he felt while serving as associate pastor at St. Anthony Church in nearby Long Beach, and was invited to celebrate Mass while the chaplain was away.Since he assumed leadership this year, the Filipino-Chinese priest has expanded the chapel, brought in statutes of saints venerated by Filipinos (who comprise a large percentage of cruise ship staff), and is planning to expand the hospitality center to include a pool table and other amenities to make it more appealing and welcoming to Catholics and non-Catholics.It is a commitment that crew members appreciate.“Very seldom do we have Mass on board the ship,” said Alvin Noel Gonzales, a 45-year-old father of three teenagers who has worked with cruise ship companies for a dozen years, on 6- to 10-month contracts. “So whenever I have a chance to attend Mass I will do it.” His co-worker Deo Galedo, 30, agreed. “Here is where I get my spirit strengthened,” added Gonzales, visibly touched. “I feel so blessed at this moment and it makes me think about what have I given in return. Maybe not much; I wish I could give more” — he paused, with tears in his eyes — “give everything.”Earlier, while they waited for the Mass to begin, crew members could access the Internet and make phone calls from the hospitality center. They talked about how they spend most of the year on the ship while their wives take care of the children. Galedo said he has only seen photos of his second child who is now six months old.“It’s hard, but it’s worth it,” he said, as his crewmates nodded. “You have to sacrifice something.”Gonzales has a college degree in computer science, but he could never find a job that would pay him enough to give his family a better life than the one he had when growing up as part of a struggling family of 10. With what he earns on the cruise ship, the onetime altar boy can afford his children’s high Catholic school tuition, and his wife can stay at home.“And we don’t have it as hard as other crew members; we work about eight hours a day,” he said, referring to Mathias Fernandes, standing nearby, who works about 10 hours daily as an assistant in the kitchen.Fernandes, 32, was raised Catholic in a country with a small Catholic population, India, where he married just a few days before departing on a 10-month contract. He barely knows his 26-year-old wife, he sighed; theirs was an arranged marriage.Attending “church” gives him some relief, he noted, as does talking and mingling with Maritime Ministry volunteers. One is Michelle Downes, who has served in the ministry for the last 13 years, and says her service brings her great relief after losing three of her four children in car accidents in the last couple of years.There is also Fran Giacalone, serving for the last 22 years (see cover story), and Olga Cruz, whose mid-October day at the hospitality center was her second time as a volunteer. Indeed, the ministry, mostly funded by the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, is drawing new volunteers since Father Chua came on board. “I thought that since I’m Filipina and know Tagalog it would be good to come here and support these guys, who are kind of isolated; to make them feel they belong,” said Cruz, also a Mary Star parishioner. “It’s been wonderful coming here!”Donations to the Mary Star of the Sea’s Maritime Ministry are welcomed. For volunteer opportunities and more information, call the parish, (310) 833-3541, or visit www.marystar.org/index.cfm?load=page&page=199.{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2012/1109/spmaritime/{/gallery}