Guild of St. Stephen
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The Guild for Altar Servers or Archconfraternity Guild of St. Stephen was set up in 1904 by Father Hamilton MacDonald as an organisation for altar servers. The patron saints of the Guild are the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Stephen, St. Thomas More, and St. Pius X.
Awards from the Guild for Altar Servers
The Bronze Medal, after 1 years of serving.
The Silver Medal, after 10 years of serving.
The Silver Medal of Merit, after 20 years of serving.
The Gold Medal, after 50 years of serving.
The Wooden Cross, Some Parishes have wooden Crosses for Altar Servers have started, before getting their Bronze Medal.
The "Centenary" Medal, This medal was commissioned for the Centenary of the Guild in 2004.
The Gold Medal of Merit, after 50 years of serving, but enrolled after the age of 13.
The Guild of St. Stephen is an international organisation of altar servers founded in England in 1904 by Father Hamilton McDonald when he formed a society of Altars Servers at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in London. In 1905, St. Pius X, Pope gave his approbation to the canonical establishment of the guild at Westminster Cathedral and in 1906, the Sacred Congregation of Rites made the guild an Archconfraternity prima primaria, enabling all the parish branches to be linked with it. The guild spread and, in 1934, Pope Pius XI enabled all guilds of altar servers throughout the British Commonwealth to be affiliated with the Archconfraternity at Westminster.
A confraternity is a sort of club, or society, for people who are interested in the same things and want to do these together. The Catholic Church uses the word 'confraternity' as the official name for societies set up in a parish. Another, word instead of 'confraternity', guild.
An Archconfraternity is a guild, which has been given special power by the Church authorities in Rome. It has special privileges and facilities. Because it is an Archconfraternity it can allow other guilds to share in those privileges and facilities.
That is what the Guild of Saint Stephen is. The main Archconfraternity is based on Westminster Cathedral, in London. It has many Guilds in parishes in Great Britain and elsewhere affiliated to it. Strictly speaking, only the Guild at Westminster Cathedral should call itself Archconfraternity, but parish Guilds call themselves branches of the Archconfraternity.
Aims and objects
The objects of the Guild of Saint Stephen are:
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. To provide altar servers with a greater understanding of what they are doing so that they may serve with increasing reverence and prayerfulness and thereby be led to a deepening response to their vocation in life. To unite servers of different parishes and dioceses for their mutual support and encouragement.
Constitution and organisation
The Archbishop of Westminster is the Superior General of the Archconfraternity and he appoints a priest to be the National Director of the Guild. A lay Central Council consisting of a Lay President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and other members assists him in the running of the Guild. The Central Council is responsible for running the business side of the Guild.
Many diocesan bishops appoint a Priest Director of the Guild for their own diocese and together these form a National Council of Priest Directors, which is an advisory body to the National Director. Some dioceses have organised their own local Lay Councils to assist the Diocesan Director in furthering the work of the Guild.
The Guild may be erected in any parish with the permission of the bishop of the diocese (see Canon 312 of the new Code of Canon Law) and shall then be affiliated to the Archconfraternity at Westminster Cathedral. Thus, in each parish, while maintaining its objects and keeping the rules of the Archconfraternity, the Guild can be independent in its constitution and organisation.
Membership of the Guild is open to any server, without limit of age, who can serve Mass, and who has shown a wish to live up to the objects and standards of the Guild.
Servers will have been given adequate training and reaches the necessary standard before being admitted to the sanctuary and then should serve satisfactorily for a minimum of six months before being enrolled as a member of the Guild. The parish priest, or the local director of the Guild, decides whether a candidate is eligible and worthy of admission to the Guild and he is empowered to perform the ceremony of enrolment and invest the server with the Guild medal, using the prescribed form of enrolment.
To serve at the altar with reverence, understanding and regularity and with due attention to personal cleanliness and tidiness. To say short prayers in preparation for and in thanksgiving after, serving Mass. To observe silence in the sacristy and great reverence in the sanctuary. To recite the Guild prayer every day.
The Prayer of the Guild of St Stephen
O God, you accept our ministry and allow us to serve at your altar; grant that while serving you we follow the example of our patron, St. Stephen, the 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. Amen
The guild also recommend the following:
Be ready to serve at every opportunity, yet making sure that your fellow servers have an equal chance. Take part in all services as fully as possible, by paying careful attention to everything that is being said or done and by joining in the prayers, responses and hymns -and especially by receiving Holy Communion at Mass. Avoid doing anything, which might distract the attention of the people. Do not fidget or look around, or stare at the people in the church. Carry out the ceremonies calmly and without drawing too much attention to yourself and remembering that you are part of a team. Be in good time before services so that you can prepare properly. See that you are suitably dressed for serving (especially footwear) and that your alb is clean and cared for. Wear the Guild medal on all occasions when serving. Do your best to attend Guild meetings and festivals so as to get to know other servers, especially those from other parishes.
The Guild Promise
I offer myself to God almighty, to blessed Mary, our Mother and to our holy patron, Saint Stephen. And I promise to do my best to serve regularly with reverence and understanding, for the glory of God, the service of his Church, and my own eternal salvation.
Becoming a Guild Member
There is a special ceremony of enrolment into the Guild. During the ceremony the server makes a solemn promise (the wording of which is given above) and is presented with the Guild Medal, which is made of bronze and is worn around the neck, hanging from a red cord.
The medal means two things:
First, the parish priest, or local director of the Guild, has decided this particular server is eligible and worthy to be admitted to the Guild. Second, the server accepts and wears the medal as a sign of commitment - commitment to serve regularly: commitment to serve as well as possible. A commitment is a serious promise, and this promise is a serious one because it is made to God and the Church.
The Guild Medal
In the centre the letters XP are the first two letters of the name 'Christ' in Greek. At the top is the crown of victory given by God to everyone who overcomes evil, especially those who die for him. At the bottom are the palm branches, traditional signs of martyrs who died for Christ. Around the edge are the Latin words of the Guild motto: CVI SERVIRE REGNARE EST. TO SERVE CHRIST IS TO REIGN. On the back around the edge are the Latin words SANCTI STEPHANI ARCHI SOLDALITAS which means ARCHCONFRATERNITY OF ST. STEPHEN.