This is great, from The Tablet in London, describing a tremendous honor bestowed “in recognition of truly exceptional and outstanding service to Britain internationally and overseas”:
A Catholic deacon whose work serving seafarers has included rescuing victims of human trafficking from boats across the south coast of England has been recognised in the New Year’s Honours. Port Chaplain, Reverend Roger Stone, who ministers to itinerant crew members as part of his work for the Catholic charity, Apostleship of the Sea, was awarded the British Empire Medal for his pastoral service to seafarers. Recipients of the award are recognised for work that has made “a significant difference” at local level. Deacon Stone, who spent Christmas Day handing out presents donated by parishioners to crews in Southampton, some of whom have not seen their families for months, said he was honoured and humbled to receive the award. Speaking to The Tablet today, he said: “I was absolutely stunned…a tear came to my eye – it really did. I thought, my goodness me.” He said he was particularly pleased to receive congratulations from seafarers around the world after news of the award was posted on the AoS Facebook page. One of the Facebook comments read: “You deserve it! Congratulations! In behalf of filipino seafarers, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR EVERYTHING! Happy new year father roger! Describing his seven-year role as Port Chaplain, which in 2012 included supporting three Filipino men living in slave-like conditions on a boat, Stone said he felt “very privileged” to be able to help. One of the men stayed with him while temporary accommodation was organised and the three are now safe and working near London, after Stone guided them through the government process for identifying victims of trafficking: the National Referral Mechanism. He said he remembered the exact date and time he met the men because it was “a landmark thing in my life because they are SUCH nice people being treated SO abysmally”. He added: “I love the seafarers…it’s not just words, I really do.”
Last summer, his diocesedescribed some of the work this deacon does:
The world of the seafarer is a hidden one, and it is one that might appear to have little bearing on our lives. Most of us are far more familiar with airports than ports. Yet around 90% of the goods imported into the UK arrive by sea. This includes everything from bananas and computers to coffee and cookers. One of the tasks of Rev Roger Stone, AoS port chaplain to Southampton and a number of ports on the south coast, is to try and meet the spiritual needs of the Catholic seafarers he encounters. An example of this was when earlier this year the Polish captain of a tanker ship said he was keen to go to Mass and also receive the sacrament of reconciliation. “Mass was being celebrated in a church five minutes’ drive from the terminal, but I drove him into Southampton so he could attend a mass in Polish and celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation in his native tongue,” said Roger. “He was really relieved to be able to go, On the way back to the ship he commented that we did all this just for one person. It was quite clear to me that the Holy Spirit led me to that ship, to him, and required me to help him to receive just what he needed.”
God bless you, Deacon Stone! Congratulations!
Photos: Apostleship of the Sea