On April 2, the Seamen’s Church Institute (SCI) hailed the Rev. Deacon Jacques Girard as a strong champion of the maritime community. Members of the port community along with clergy from local dioceses and friends of the Institute assembled for a Eucharist in thanksgiving for Girard’s work at SCI. After 12 years as a full-time chaplain at SCI’s Port Newark International Seafarers’ Center, Girard retires from port ministry.
Over his career as a port chaplain, Girard climbed hundreds of gangways to reach mariners on board cargo ships, tugs and pilot boats in the New York Harbor. Serving on SCI’s team based out of Port Newark, he offered hospitality and pastoral care as part of SCI’s comprehensive set of services for seafarers. Attuned to the unique needs of the maritime community, many came to identify Girard as an indomitable figure in the port.
An afternoon celebration at the newly reopened Port Newark International Seafarers’ Center included a liturgy, meal and open house for approximately 80 people. The newly elected Bishop Coadjutor of the Diocese of New York, the Rt. Rev. Andrew M. L. Dietsche, presided at the Eucharist and the Rev. Dr. Jean R. Smith, former President & Executive Director of SCI, gave a homily. Smith spoke of Girard’s compassion and connection with others. She originally offered the retiring port chaplain his job at SCI. Girard’s late wife convinced him to seize a “once in a lifetime opportunity for ministry.”
Daily, Girard uncovered opportunities for ministry traveling to various terminals in the port. He made many friends on land and at sea from various backgrounds and faiths. Girard frequently called people to unity. In a recent meditation, he said, “[We’re all] brothers and sisters, all children of God.”
As Girard concludes his chaplaincy at SCI, he moves on to meet new challenges. Monday’s celebration bore witness to the legacy he leaves. Bishop Dietsche said that he looks forward to seeing Girard bear more fruit in the next chapter of his ministerial life. “Whatever it is,” he said, “we know it will be important.”
View the Flickr album of photos from the afternoon in SCI's Photos section.