By Susan Gately - 05 January, 2018
Among those on the Queen’s New Years Honours List, none was more surprised than Deacon Roger Stone, who was nominated for a British Empire Medal (MBE). “I was absolutely stunned…a tear came to my eye – it really did,” he told the Tablet, “I thought, my goodness me.”
On the list, the Apostleship of the Sea Port Chaplain is nominated “for services to Seafarers”. Judging by the response to the announcement in late December, it was a popular one. One Facebook comment read: “You deserve it! Congratulations! In behalf of Filipino seafarers, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR EVERYTHING! Happy new year Father Roger!”
Rev. Stone has been a port chaplain for the Apostleship of the Sea since June 2010 supporting seafarers who arrive on ships in the south coast of England. “I am proud to work for the Apostleship of the Sea, the greatest and most effective maritime charity in the world. I am privileged to serve so many wonderful seafarers from so many countries around the world,” he said.
Before coming to the role, he had no knowledge of the seafaring world, having worked before that in a parish in West Sussex. Delighted at the award of the medal, he said he would regard it as “a symbol of the love I have for seafarers who rely on Apostleship of the Sea port chaplains and volunteers for pure pastoral care. Without the Apostleship of the Sea, seafarers would simply not receive the love and care they need.”
Speaking to the Tablet, Deacon Stone described his seven-year role as Port Chaplain, which in 2012 included supporting three Filipino men living in slave-like conditions on a boat. One of the men stayed with him while temporary accommodation was organised, and the three are now safe and working near London, after the chaplain guided them through the government process for identifying victims of trafficking. It was a landmark event in his life, he said “because they are such nice people being treated so abysmally”. He added that he really loved the seafarers – “it’s not just words.”
Identified as an advocate for seafarers, the chaplain has not been afraid to speak out on their behalf, telling of the evidence that he has seen of ships breaking health and safety laws and ignoring the rights of crewmen. In 2016 for example, Deacon Stone complained that port authorities lacked the power to detain a ship for what he described as “deficiencies” and added, “There must be a point when a civil offence becomes a criminal one, especially in cases where abuse and modern slavery is suspected.
“This question is one that the shipping industry, port authorities and law enforcement agencies must seriously consider.”
In total 1,123 people were named in the British New Year’s Honours List, which includes people who have given their lifetimes to supporting others. 70% of the recipients are people who have undertaken outstanding work in their communities either in a voluntary or paid capacity, following Prime Minister Theresa May’s strategic steer, that she would like more honours to go to people contributing to society and their communities. Famous names on the list this year include Beetle, ‘Ringo Starr’, Richard Starkey, and singer-songwriter Barry Gibb, who both receive knighthoods.