This year, the Rev. Michael Kim is offering a special service for COVID-conscious Catholics: a “do-it-yourself” kit that fishermen can use to bless their own boats and gear. The blessing kits distributed by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church include the text of a prayer to be read aloud, and holy water in a bottle designed for easy sprinkling.
Parishioners hoping for abundant catches or for protection from stormy weather sometimes ask for blessings, Kim said. However, the coronavirus pandemic has made close interpersonal contact more complicated. So, Kim readied 15 kits in preparation for the 2021 fishing season as an optional substitute for the traditional face-to-face blessing of boats and gear. Kim said he was ready to prepare more kits if demand should increase during the fishing season.
For more than three decades, local clergy have gathered at the Fisherman’s Memorial to mark the start of the fishing season and to offer a blessing to Cordova’s fishing fleet. The Saturday, May 8 Blessing of the Fleet was attended by Kim; the Rev. Belle Mickelson, priest for St. George’s Episcopal Church; and Mike Glover, pastor of Cordova Community Baptist Church. Mickelson, playing violin, led a performance of nautically themed gospel songs, after which the three clergy members delivered services into a handheld radio broadcasting to vessels that had already departed the nearby harbor.
“Especially with fishing, there are a lot of things that are outside of any individual’s control,” Glover said. “So, we’re just asking for God’s blessing to be on everybody who’s going to be out on the water, for their safety and — especially after last year — for their success, and that there would be an abundance of fish in the waters this year.”
The event was also attended by a convocation of six bald eagles, two of which perched attentively near the Fisherman’s Memorial, wowing the assembled clergy and parishioners. Mickelson said she was reminded of the works of St. Francis of Assisi, the Catholic patron saint of animals and ecology.
“It’s really powerful,” Mickelson said. “It’s a sign of God’s presence.”
The Blessing of the Fleet also serves a positive function in encouraging leaders and adherents of different religious denominations to gather and pray together, Mickelson said. Following the service, Mickelson, Kim and Glover descended to the floats of Cordova Harbor and took turns blessing vessels individually.
“I hope it communicates and fosters a sense of unity in Cordova that really surrounds our entire fishing fleet: these fish are not just the lifeblood of our community, but it’s an amazing work this community does to feed the whole world,” Glover said.
Steve Leppert, pastor of Cordova Church of the Nazarene, and the Rev. Kelley Weaverling, leader of the Cordova Pathless Way Zen Community, were unavailable to participate in this year’s Blessing of the Fleet.