What is the Archconfraternity of Saint Stephen?
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 Church uses the word ‘confraternity’ as the official name for societies set up in a parish. We often use another, easier, 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.
The objects of the Guild of Saint Stephen are: (1) 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; (2) 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; (3) to unite servers of different parishes and dioceses for their mutual support and encouragement.
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 Altar Servers at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in London. In 1905, Pope Pius X 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.
The Guild of St Stephen was founded in Saint Philip Howard Parish soon after the church was built in 1978. Since then we have had a vibrant and dedicated group of Altar Servers – some who have continued serving from their First Holy Communion until the age of thirty! We have also had one vocation to the Sacred Priesthood from our Altar Servers.
If you are interested in becoming an Altar Server, please contact Deacon John Bell on (01223) 503948 at firstname.lastname@example.org