Our History

The Apostleship of the Sea began as a ministry serving the ports in Britain, officially founded in Glasgow in 1920.

History in Melbourne

St Vincent de Paul Society

The Society’s records of 1889 tell of its members visiting ships in the Port of Melbourne. Six years later, the President of the Society urged that conferences be established in Port Melbourne and Williamstown to look after seafarers.

When the St Vincent de Paul Society celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1931, Archbishop Mannix asked that they mark the occasion by establishing a seaman’s institute. This was accomplished in 1932 with the blessing and opening of a premises at 546 Flinders Street, Melbourne.

Women became involved in 1934 when a number of ladies from the Central Telephone Exchange formed a group to help care for seafarers. They soon became known as the Stella Maris Ladies Auxiliary. In 1946, Mr Les Royal carried on the care of visiting seafarers in Melbourne, almost single handed. He arranged dances at Unity Hall and even hosted seafarers in his own home.

Apostleship of the Sea

Fr Kevin Quinlan was appointed the first full-time Port Chaplain in 1960. He oversaw the integration of the work of the International Apostleship of the Sea in the Melbourne Port and formed the Stella Maris entity in Melbourne. In the late 1960s, Archbishop Knox generously gifted the 600 Little Collins Street site to Fr Quinlan and the Stella Maris Association for the purpose of constructing and operating a purpose-built seafarers’ centre. With a corps of dedicated volunteers, much fundraising was conducted to enable its construction and in 1973, the Stella Maris Seafarers’ Centre opened officially with a blessing.

Fr Michael Richardson began a 22-year association with Stella Maris in 1974 after he was appointed assistant to Fr Quinlan. In the following year Fr Quinlan retired and Fr Richardson succeeded as the Melbourne Port Chaplain. During his affiliation with Stella Maris, Fr Richardson also served as National Director of the Apostleship of the Sea in Australia.

Miss Dale Holland managed the Stella Maris Centre from 1975 to 1996. In 1997, a Committee of Management was appointed to oversee the running of Stella Maris and ongoing provision of services to seafarers after Fr Richardson and Ms Holland retired. For several years, Stella Maris was assisted by Columban priests.

From 2002 to 2007, Fr Luis Vergara (Divine Word Missionaries) fulfilled the role of part-time Chaplain. In more recent times, a number of parish priests have assisted the work upon request. Throughout its history, Stella Maris has relied on dedicated staff, volunteers, ship visitors, and assisting priests, and they continue to care for seafarers with generous hearts – all in the spirit and tradition of the missionary work of the Apostleship of the Sea.

A home away from home

“I was a stranger and you made Me welcome” Matthew 25:25

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  • +61 3 9629 7494
  • 600 Little Collins Street, Melbourne