by Hunter Dawkins
Absent for two years from the Pass Christian Harbor, the Blessing of the Fleet returned this Sunday with numerous sponsors and a donation by the city despite the devastation of the waters from the Bonnet Carre Spillway.
“The Blessing of the Fleet is a big deal and a longstanding tradition and the participation has gone away because of our lack of commercial fishermen,” said Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United, Inc. Executive Director Ryan Bradley. “We commend the Mayor and the Board of Aldermen in Pass Christian for not even thinking twice of having the event and donating $1200.”
In building back the decades-long tradition of the event, Pass Christian Mayor Leo “Chipper” McDermott expressed “It means more to the fishermen, as the city has a responsibility to the boat-owners, especially commercial ones.”
As far as the energy and charisma in the return of the event, Mayor McDermott stated “I hope this helps and they’re going to keep shrimping despite having to go farther out. It’s a tough business trying to make a living in right now.”
Bradley went further about the energy of this event, saying “A lot of commercial fishermen are very spiritual and the beginning of this event is to honor God, which is the first step. We can’t get too far away from that and need to get back to our roots.”
The tradition of Blessing of the Fleet stems from a predominantly Catholic practice, but now is open to all Christian denominations to ensure a safe and bountiful season on the waters. On the Mississippi Gulf Coast, annual Blessing of the Fleet festivals are held throughout communities all along the Gulf Coast before the opening of the shrimp season. The shrimping industry has a long history in this region and is tied to local and community identities.
Reverends Mike Austin from Holy Family Parish and Kyle Bennett from Trinity Episcopal Church in Pass Christian blessed all ships in both harbors.