Australian Army Chaplain Haydn Parsons was farewelled recently by the Archbishop of Solomon Islands during a Sunday morning service at Holy Cross Cathedral in Honiara.
CAPTION: Australian Army padre Chaplain Haydn Parsons is presented a farewell gift by Archbishop Christopher Cardone during a service at Holy Cross Cathedral in Honiara, Solomon Islands. Story and photo by Corporal Julia Whitwell.
It was Chaplain Parsons’ last service in-country before returning to Australia after a three-month deployment as part of Operation Lilia.
The operation is the ADF’s contribution to the Solomons International Assistance Force, comprising Australian, New Zealand, and Fijian defence forces working with the Royal Solomon Islands Police Force.
While Chaplain Parsons’ role was to provide chaplaincy and broader welfare support for deployed personnel, the impact of his presence reached further.
“My role here centres on people – listening to and connecting with our contingent here, but also those we work with in the community,” Chaplain Parsons said.
“When I walk into the church here, we have this great connection through a narrative of faith.
“It’s about self-determination and empowering others.”
Highlights for Chaplain Parsons included visiting the Burns Creek community, being invited for an interview on national radio, and offering a prayer – in person – with Governor-General of Solomon Islands Sir David Vunagi.
From unloading humanitarian aid and food supplies during the initial COVID-19 response, to playing soccer with local youth, Chaplain Parsons said his experiences while deployed on Operation Lilia were diverse.
“As padres, we’re attached because we’re all-rounders who can transition between pitching in when there are stores to unload for the contingent or the community, and then bringing people together through ritual and presence of mind when the occasion calls for it,” he said.
Operation Lilia was the chaplain’s second deployment to Solomon Islands, after Operation Anode in 2011.
He said it was surreal being back and seeing familiar landmarks.
“It was exciting to move in across the road, being able to point out buildings across the street. It was like coming home,” he said.
“There’s a golden thread of gratitude from when I was here in 2011. The community remembers the ADF from back then and they’re grateful for our presence, and I’m grateful to be here too.
“I’m sad to be leaving. I’ve made some wonderful friends and colleagues, from Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji – and of course, here in Solomon Islands.”
In a touching presentation speech, spoken partly in Solomon Island Pijin, the Archbishop thanked Chaplain Parsons for his service to the nation and, on behalf of the congregation, invited him to visit again.