By Dominique Johnson
On a typical Sunday during the summer five cruise ships will make stops in downtown Juneau. The ports are filled with visitors ready to make their way to the Mendenhall Glacier and on various excursions to experience Alaska’s capital city.
On a Saturday evening and Sunday among the large tour buses, you will find a smaller bus with the image of the Blessed Mother, Mary making rounds to the different ports taking cruise ship passengers to Mass at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Cathedral parishioner Patty Morgan leads the port ministry and has been involved since the ministry began five years ago. Visitors call Morgan to schedule their pick- up locations and let her know which Mass they plan on attending. She says, “I enjoy meeting people from around the world who share our Catholic faith.”
The cruise ship Island Princess arrives in Juneau at 6:30 AM on Sunday and Morgan makes her way down to the ships dock at 7:45 AM to pick-up passengers who wish to attend the Mass at the Cathedral at 8:30 AM.
As the bus with the words “free rides to Mass” pulls in with the other tour buses a couple from Utah climbs on board and shares how when they travel they always research local parishes and were happy to find the parish in Juneau offered rides to Mass. Other passengers from Ohio and Australia fill the bus on this Sunday morning.
Before the bus leaves the dock, a lady asks Morgan about Mass times later in the day and she shared the Cathedral’s Mass schedule and gave her a business card to call for pick- up. Morgan said that each concierge for the different cruise lines has a copy of the Mass schedule, but sometimes seeing the bus and knowing they can get a ride up the hill helps visitors make the decision to attend Mass.
Upon arrival at the Cathedral, Tom Buti from Columbus, Ohio shares how important it is for him to be at Mass, “I can’t live with myself if I don’t make it to Mass on Sunday. I need to have that communication with God.”
Buti found out about the port ministry by reading the parish bulletin posted online. He said in his internet search Google maps said the Cathedral was about a mile from the cruise ship dock and he thought about walking, “Now after looking at the hill, I’m glad I called for a ride.”
Australian Peter Mulligan didn’t know about the port ministry until the bus pulled up to the dock. He noticed the bold lettering and decided that instead of shopping, he would attend Mass, while others in his group went on their helicopter tour. He joked, “God must have wanted me to make Mass this morning, because when traveling, it’s hard to find a church.”
The port ministry at the Cathedral will continue to bring visitors from around the world to Mass in Juneau through the summer months and Patty Morgan looks forward to meeting new travelers who are a reminder that, “We are truly part of the Eucharistic Body of Christ throughout the world and that we are all part of the family of God.” She is impressed that many people plan their vacations around attending Mass adding that “It is a witness to our faith to others, and it is a great honor and joy to be part of the port ministry.”