- Associated Press - Monday, April 14, 2014

PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (AP) - Mike Austin, pastor of Holy Family Catholic Church, strode along the docks of the Pass Christian Harbor sprinkling holy water on each boat and pausing to bless their crews.

He was asking for a good, prosperous fishing season for the working boats, fun on the water for the owners of pleasure craft, “and safety for all.” Austin said his prayers on Sunday extended to protection from hurricanes.

The Sun Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1qWvPnT ) Austin is originally from Bay St. Louis and this is the second year for him and the 38th year for the Pass Christian Blessing of the fleet.

At one point Sunday he went aboard a Vietnamese fishing boat. Not quite understanding what the fishermen were asking, he found they wanted him to bless the Virgin Mary statue they carry aboard the boat.

It will take more time to bless the fleet next year. Pass Christian Alderman Victor Pickich said the city hopes the new harbor under construction directly to the east will be ready in about two months.

“That will be a blessing,” he said.

Harbor master Willie Davis said the new harbor has deeper water and bigger slips and will double the number of slips to 600.

The Blessing of the Fleet is a festival for the city, but for those who make their living on the water it’s a tradition.

“I’m a Catholic, Christian and I want my boat blessed — and my crew and myself,” said Joseph Seal, owner of Miss Stacy Leigh, named for his wife.

Does the blessing work? He started working on the water when he was 18 and now, 30 years later, he says, “I’m still alive; still making a living.”

___

Information from: The Sun Herald, http://www.sunherald.com

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