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.”
Of the companies running ships with a particularly poor human rights record, Stone said they "really don’t care…commerce trumps”.
National Director of Apostleship of the Sea, Martin Foley, said: “The British Empire Medal is a fitting recognition of Roger’s work and ministry with seafarers, and testimony to the vital support and assistance that AoS provides to seafarers and the wider shipping and maritime community.”
The Southampton-based deacon will attend a ceremony at St James's Palace later in the year. He joins other Catholic awardees of 2018 Honours, including Mrs Maria Eves, on the board of governors at two Catholic schools, and Mrs Frances Anne Hawkes, Headteacher of a Catholic schools federation, who both received MBEs.
Picture: Roger Stone, second from right, with seafarers 2017. © Apostleship of the Sea