Deacon John Archer
Diocese of Mobile, Alabama
Deacon John Archer spent 40 years working in finance in California. When he retired and moved to Mobile, Alabama in 2017, he was assigned to the Catholic Maritime Ministry and the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. The mission of the Apostleship of the Sea (AOS) is to teach and witness to the Word of God, to serve the people of the sea by fostering their growth and renewal through prayer, study and Christian service.
Since 1948 the Mobile Archdiocese has provided ministry and hospitality to seafarers. Mobile has a population of 200,000, some 80,000 of them Catholics. The Port of Mobile, the 10th largest in the U.S. and growing, handles about 1,600 ships annually.
Since 9-11, mariners are unable to easily depart their ships due to the limits of security and visas and the demands of cargo or maintenance. Consequently, ministry was limited to visiting ships, offering mass and escorting seafarers who had visas. That means the Archdiocese ministers to thousands of unseen people.
When Deacon Archer arrived in Mobile the status quo changed. He immediately began to re-imagine the ministry, involving port administrators and workers, the Cathedral parish, Filipino, Hispanic, and Greek communities, and the media. To shine a light on their plight, he will share stories about the 32,000 unseen visitors who call on the Port each year with anyone who will listen.
Drawing upon his business background, Deacon Archer restructured and expanded the ministry, and assumed administrative function that allowed the chaplain to focus more on responsibilities to the parish. He established an advisory council to reach out to the broader Port community. Council members employ their professional skills to point the ministry to the most underserved.
Listening to the mariners’ stories, Deacon Archer shares their pain, time and joy. Recognizing the mariners’ needs are often overlooked, Deacon Archer effectively engaged the maritime industry by developing and implementing a budgeted ministry plan to better explain mission and need to potential supporters. He’s accessed funding sources and partnered with other denominations to bring support to mariners. He’s established a respected presence with key players in the marine community that brings credit to the ministry and facilitates a more effective outreach.
When he preaches from the pulpit, Deacon Archer shares the plight of the seafarers who are rarely able to receive the Sacraments and have limited access to their Church, their families and the outside world for months at a time. By sharing their stories, Deacon Archer demonstrates the universality of experiences: hopes, fears, and a desire to see and feel Christ in every port along the way.
When Deacon John arrived in Mobile there were three active ministers. His efforts have broadened diocesan engagement and attracted two new deacons and three new ship visitors. Deacon Archer says the ministry allows him to put his faith into action and to provide light to those who experience the darkness of loneliness and isolation due to long times away from loved ones.