Peter Apostle Roman Catholic Church, Rushden, Northamptonshire
Guild of St Stephen
Introduction. The Guild of St Stephen, that is, The Altar Servers Guild or, to give it its full and proper title, The Archconfraternity of St Stephen, exists to encourage positively and practically the highest standards of serving at the Church’s Liturgy and so contribute to the whole community’s participation in a more fruitful worship of God. At the same time providing Altar Servers with a greater understanding of what they are doing so that they may server with reverence, dignity and commitment. The Guild was set up in the early part of the 20th century.
What is an Archconfraternity? In general terms a confraternity is a sort of club or society for people who are interested in the same things. The Church uses the word “confraternity” for societies set up in a parish. We use the word Guild instead of confraternity because it is easier and has much the same meaning. An archconfraternity is a guild which has been given special power by the Church in Rome. It has special privileges and facilities and it can allow other guilds to share in those privileges and facilities.
The Archconfraternity of St Stephen is based on Westminster Cathedral, other parish Guilds are branches of the Archconfraternity.
Membership of the Guild is open to any server who can serve Mass and has shown a willingness to serve when called upon to do so and to keep the rules of the Guild.
1. To serve with reverence, understanding and regularity.
2.. To say short prayers in preparation for and in thanksgiving after serving.
3. To observe silence in the sacristy and reverence in sanctuary
4. To recite the Guild prayer every day.
Enrolment will take place once the candidate has shown they can serve to an acceptable standard. They do this in the follow way:
1. By being ready to serve at every opportunity
2. By taking part in all services as fully as possible.
3. By not doing anything which might distract the congregation, Priest or other servers.
4. By carrying out their duties calmly
5. By being in good time.
6. By being suitably and smartly dressed
7. By doing their best to attend meetings
During the ceremony of enrolment the server will make a solemn promise and is presented with the Guild Medal
The medal means two things, firstly that the parish priest has decided that the server is eligible and worthy to be admitted to the Guild. Secondly that the server accepts and wears the medal as a sign of commitment to serve regularly and as well as possible.
The letters on the Medal XP are the first two letters of the name “Christ” in Greek. At the top of the medal is a crown representing the crown of victory given by God to all who overcome evil and follow him. At the bottom are palm leaves which are traditional signs of martyrs who died for Christ. The Latin words around the outside are “Cui servire regnare est”
“ To serve Christ is to reign”
Patrons St Stephen is of course the Principal patron of the Guild. He was a brave and fearless man. He had to be, to do the work God wanted him to do. While he was doing his work of service he worked great signs and miracles. This made the enemies of the Christians very angry. They rushed at Stephen and stoned him to death.
Stephen is our patron. His courage and love can work on us too. He showed what real serving is all about. It is about working for other people, living for them. Even dying for them. As altar servers we serve the whole Church. Together with everybody else we use the gifts God has given us to spread the Good News and to pray to God as one family. A big job but we can pray to St Stephen to help us because he is our patron.
To find out more about St Stephen, read the Acts of the Apostle chapter 6 and 7
There are also three secondary patrons of the Guild. St Thomas More, Pope Saint Pius X and Our Lady. I am sure you know a lot about Our Lady but see what you can find out about the other two.
The Guild Prayer
O God, you accept our ministry and allow us to server at your altar, grant that while serving you we follow the example of our Patron, St Stephen, the first martyr and that we may, like him, come to see Jesus standing at your right hand in the kingdom of heaven. We ask this through Jesus Christ, your Son.
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