GOLD Coast Deacon Gary Stone is among the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, receiving an Order of Australia Medal for service to veterans and their families.
Deacon Stone, who served for decades in the army as chaplain, in the federal police, and six years ago founded the Veterans Care Association that he says has helped veterans find a purpose in life and brought them back “from the brink of suicide, addiction and hopelessness”.
“I am grateful to God and the Christian community who have nurtured me in missionary service,” Deacon Stone said.
“I have tried to bring Good News to others. Of course The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have been the ultimate Good News in my life, and in the healing of those veterans, that we have been supporting along the way.”
Deacon Stone said his award was only possible because of the team effort of VCA members, “a group of formerly wounded, ill and injured veterans ourselves, who were once part of the problem, and have transformed ourselves into being part of the solution to veterans’ health”.
“The Catholic Leader has reported many Good News stories about VCA’s flagship program called Timor Awakening, conceived, designed and delivered by our son Michael, a veteran of 20 years service himself,” he said.
“We have seen many transformations – traumatised people brought back from the brink of suicide, addiction and hopelessness – to find identity and purpose.
“We have been demonstrating that there is a better way to help veterans and their families by delivering a wellness focused model promoting the nurture of body, mind, soul, and relationships, rather than the community relying exclusively on a treatment of sickness model, we had been primarily been receiving.
“We have been demonstrating to the Department of Veterans Affairs that veterans can be an upfront integrated part of their rehabilitation services. We hope they are getting the message.”
Deacon Stone said it had been “a real joy” to see veterans wanting to give to others.
“A good example is Vietnam veteran Rob Schreuder, (The Catholic Leader, August 25, 2019) , who has been instrumental in raising funds for our Veterans University and Retreat in Timor,” he said.
“He (Rob Schreuder) will be assisting us in our next programs to be delivered on the Gold Coast in July and September, as logistics coordinator.
“Coronavirus may have stopped us going to Timor for a few months, but we’ve adapted to that by planning to deliver programs to train up more pastoral carers, and we’ve been flooded with applications.”
Deacon Stone said VCA planned to continue delivering rehabilitation programs in Australia and Timor, and to improve the culture and system of veterans’ health.
“It is fundamental missional work – the church at work in improving our wider society,” he said.
“I would certainly hope that any attention that comes with this award is mirrored to inspire others to care for those in need.
“Our team at Veterans Care are simply people who care.
“We are inspired by the story of the Good Samaritan who looked with compassion upon a wounded traveller and offered him care.”
Prominent Catholics receive honours
FORMER Prime Minister Tony Abbott tops the list of prominent Catholics to receive Queen’s Birthday Honours this year.
Mr Abbott was one of only three prominent Australians named a Companion (AC) of the Order of Australia, for his eminent service to the people and Parliament of Australia, particularly as Prime Minister, and through significant contributions to trade, border control, and to the Indigenous community.
Francis Sullivan, former chief executive officer of the Catholic Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, was named an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) for distinguished service to the community, particularly through social justice and legislative reform initiatives, and to health and aged care.
Former ABC Pacific Correspondent Sean Dorney, also received an AO for “distinguished service to Australia-PNG relations, to the broadcast media as a journalist, and as an author”.
The former ABC Pacific Correspondent attended Brisbane’s St Joseph’s Nudgee College and in recent years has continued writing and advocating for closer Pacific relations despite battling motor neuron disease.
National Party stalwart Ron Boswell was recognised as an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), for his distinguished service to the federal parliamentary, and to fisheries research and development.
The former senator retired from politics in 2014 after more than 30 years in the Senate.
Other prominent Catholics to receive honours included Julien O’Connell, Jay Bonnington, Sr Margaret Mary Cleary, Sr Kate Conley and Br Nicholas Harsas and Deacon Gary Stone were among Catholics honoured in this year’s list.
Mr O’Connell, the Pro-Chancellor for the Australian Catholic University, was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in recognition for his contribution to community health through aged care in executive roles and higher educations.
He was the chair of the Mercy Health board before moving to chair The Mercy Foundation.
Ms Bonnington, who has been the Catholic Health Australia representative on a number of boards, was made a Member of the Order of Australia for “significant service to the community through support for charitable organisations and to business”.
Josephite Sister Margaret Mary Cleary was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the Church, and Mercy Sister Kate Conley received an OAM for her service to the Church and to women.
Patrician Brother Nicholas Harsas received an OAM for service to education and the Church.