As she cut the ribbon to officially open The Terry Finlay Seafarers Centre in Oshawa on June 29, Canon Alice Jean Finlay felt a wave of emotion.
The new station, located in Oshawa’s commercial port, was named after her late husband, Archbishop Terence Finlay, the former Bishop of Toronto and a supporter of ministry to seafarers for three decades. “Terry would have been very honoured to be recognized in this way,” she says.
The Rev. Judith Alltree, executive director of the Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario, says it was natural that the station be named after Archbishop Finlay, who died in March. “We wanted to do something in his memory and as a way of saying thanks to him. It breaks my heart that he wasn’t there for the opening but he did know this was happening and he was so excited for us because he knew how important it was.”
Archbishop Finlay had been a long-time board member of the Mission to Seafarers Southern Ontario and was also the national church’s visiting bishop, or liaison bishop, to the 12 missions to seafarers in Canada. “He felt it was a very important outreach ministry both internationally and ecumenically,” says Canon Finlay. “Not only did he feel it was valuable for the services it provided, but it also had an important role in advocating for the human rights of seafarers.”
The Oshawa building, a former construction trailer, provides free WiFi for seafarers who want to call their families back home – usually their No. 1 priority. About 3,000 seafarers arrived at the port last year.
The station is staffed by a team of 12 people, including nine volunteers from nearby churches. They visit the ships and provide transportation if the seafarers need to go into town. In addition to WiFi, the station offers a quiet place away from the ship.
“We’re able to welcome them and remind them they’re not invisible, that they have people who will listen,” says Ms. Alltree.
She had been working since 2013 to establish the station. There are two other stations in southern Ontario – in Toronto and Hamilton.
The diocese gave a $10,000 grant in Archbishop Finlay’s name to the chaplaincy in May to get the station up and running. The chaplaincy used a £10,000 grant from Seafarers UK last year to buy the construction trailer. Since then, it has undergone extensive renovations.
“It’s 460 square feet of a lot of love, let me tell you,” says Ms. Alltree. But she says all the effort has been worth it. “To be able to say to the seafarers that the mission is just up the street, which is something we haven’t been able to do, is huge for them. And our volunteers are unbelievably enthusiastic and caring.”
The opening ceremony on June 29 was attended by about 30 people, including Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Colin Johnson, Bishop Riscylla Shaw, Bishop Michael Bedford-Jones (retired) and Donna Taylor, the harbourmaster and chief executive officer of the Port of Oshawa. Parishioners from St. Peter, Oshawa, All Saints, Whitby and St. Matthew, Oshawa in Pickering, also attended. Afterwards, there was a reception at the harbourmaster’s office.