Apostleship of Sea (AoS) port chaplain Reverend Roger Stone has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the Queen’s New Year’s Honour’s List 2018 for services to the pastoral care of seafarers.
Roger has served as port chaplain for the seafarers’ charity since June 2010 and has provided pastoral, spiritual and welfare support to hundreds of crew members who arrive on ships at ports along the South Coast of England.
Roger says he is truly honoured and humbled to receive the British Empire Medal from Her Majesty The Queen.
He said, “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.
“I will always regard the Medal 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,” he added.
A permanent deacon, Roger served in the parish of Billingshurst with Pulborough in West Sussex for four years before coming across a job advertisement for a port chaplain with AoS.
Despite not knowing anything about the world of seafarers and shipping at that time, he decided to respond to the advert, seeing it as a chance to embrace new challenges and do something different.
Seven years on, Roger is a familiar face with the local port and shipping community, and more importantly, has become a friend and confidant to the many seafarers he has supported and assisted in one way or the other – many of whom regularly keep in touch with him via Facebook and WhatsApp
Roger has had to deal with some very difficult situations. On several occasions he has supported seafarers following the sudden death of one of their colleagues including serving crew on a cruise ship after a very young seafarer had taken his own life.
All through 2013 and 2014, Roger and his team supported a group of abandoned seafarers from two ships detained in Rye and Shoreham-by-Sea in Sussex after the company they worked for fell into financial difficulties. AoS raised emergency funds for the crew to send money home to their families and provided food, internet access and phone cards so they could contact their anxious families. Above all AoS was able to offer the seafarers hope as they were left vulnerable and worried about their futures.
More recently Roger and his team supported nine fishermen who were found to be working in slave-like conditions on a fishing boat moored at Portsmouth Harbour.
He has also been instrumental in arranging pastoral visits by Vatican cardinals and bishops specially for crew of cruise ships when they dock in Civitavecchia, Rome; a recent initiative by AoS. Roger has also learned some Tagalog and Visaya to be able to communicate on a personal level with Filipino seafarers who make up a large proportion of seafarers worldwide.
AoS National Director 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.”