By Eric Martin
The international organisation of altar servers has last weekend Sunday 17 March welcomed 18 new servers and seven new acolytes at St Helena of the Holy Cross, Ellenbrook Parish, continuing a history of service to the sacraments that goes back to the beginning of last century.
The Guild of St Stephen is an association for acolytes and altar servers which provides Guild Medals and Certification for those who have served at the altar for a certain period of time.
Celebrating the Mass was Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey, with Parish Priest Fr Bonaventure Echeta as concelebrant.
“I thank your Parish Priest for the invitation – an invitation to perform a very important ceremony, the induction of a number of young people (and some not so young people), as servers and acolytes into the Guild of St Stephen,” Emeritus Archbishop Hickey said.
“Helping them to become more conscious of the privilege it is to serve in the sacred rites of the Church at the center of our liturgical life, the blessed Eucharist,” he said.
The Guild of St Stephen was 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 agreed to the Canonical establishment of the Guild at Westminster Cathedral and in 1906, the Sacred Congregation of Rites made the Guild an Archconfraternity enabling all 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.
Continuing his homily, the Emeritus Archbishop went on to focus on the life of St Stephen, the church’s first martyr, and how we as Christians in modern times can draw inspiration from the unswerving nature of St Stephen’s faith in the face of persecution.
The Guild has four key goals or principles which are central to its mission:
- 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 acolytes and 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; and
- To foster vocations to the priesthood and religious life by building up the prayer life of those who serve at the altar.
“My dear acolytes and altar servers, God’s grace, given to us in baptism continues to work in us throughout our lives. That grace has already called you forth to this assembly of the faithful to minister to the table of the Lord’s sacrifice,” Emeritus Archbishop Hickey explained to acolytes and altar servers.
“Today God calls you a little further on your journey and invites you to deepen your baptismal commitment by being admitted to the Guild of St Stephen. In the presence of this assembly I ask you to renew the promises made at your baptism and to declare your intentions.”
For the past couple of years, Ellenbrook parishioners Angelo Papiccio and Michael Harper with the support of Fr Bonaventure, have worked tirelessly to establish Ellenbrook Parish, St Helena of the Holy Cross Church as a “Guild Member” Parish. Mr Harper in particular had also been in regular contact with the National Director of the Australian Chapter of the Guild, Fr Dishan Candappa to seek his ongoing guidance to ensure that this particular investiture ceremony and those in the future run according to Guild protocol and expectations.
Both Mr Papiccio, Mr Harper and a third member of the parish, Mr Ben Bull, are already members of the Guild of St Stephen and have been for over 30 years each.
Prior to the commencement of the 2018 Advent Season, Ellenbrook Parish, St Helena of the Holy Cross Church received dispensation from Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, as Archbishop of Perth, to proceed with the installation of Altar Servers and Acolytes within the Parish at the discretion of Fr Bonaventure.
Participants qualify for admission to the Guild after they have served at the Altar for a period of two or more years and have undertaken the on-going training that has been administered by the Parish via Messrs Harper, Papiccio and Bull.
Mr Harper and Mr Fergus Carroll were also issued with a Certificate of Institution – Ministry of Acolyte for the Archdiocese of Perth at the ceremony by Emeritus Archbishop Barry Hickey. Mr Harper has been an Acolyte for a number of years but only formalised that training via the Centre of Liturgy with Mr Carroll late last year.