Guidelines for the Formation of the Friars for Understanding and Assisting the SFO

Guidelines for the Formation of the Friars for Understanding and Assisting the SFO were developed in 1992 by the Conference of General Assistants of the SFO, and were approved by the Union of Ministers General. They are included in the Handbook for Spiritual Assistance to the SFO, published by the Conference of National Assistants of Oceania.

They were presented to all Franciscan religious, possibly to be inserted in their formation programs, for the knowledge of the SFO within the Franciscan Family, and in its mission in the Church and in the world, and to prepare those who are called to serve as Spiritual Assistants.


1. In Initial Formation

a. Postulancy

a) Life of St Francis; Francis, "founder" of the three Orders.

b) General introduction to the Franciscan Family:

c) First contacts with an SFO Fraternity and with the Franciscan Youth.

b. Novitiate

a) In the general theme of the universal call to holiness and of the religious vocation, speak also of the secular Franciscan vocation seen as sharing the common charism in life-giving union with one another in the mission of the Church: "Go, repair...".

b) When treating of the history of the Franciscan Family, speak about the Penitents and about the origins of the Third Order.

c) Read the Rules of the First, Second and Third Orders.

c. Post-Novitiate

What is proposed in this paragraph should be understood not as being an addition of other material to the program of the post-novitiate; but rather in the sense of developing the material of the present curriculum such as history, spirituality, ecclesiology, social doctrine, etc.

a) The history of the Franciscan Family, including the SFO in its essential lines through the centuries; its presence and development in one's own country; relations with the First Order; birth of new Orders and Congregations from the SFO.

b) The nature, identity, structure and organization of the SFO according to the new Rule and Constitutions, emphasizing its secular character and the unity of the Order.

c) Accentuate the vision of the Church as the People of God and of communion (Lumen gentium, Gaudium et spes, and the final document of the 1985 Synod).

d) Deepen the role of the lay faithful, co-responsibility and cooperation between the clergy and the laity, religious and seculars, in the mission of the Church (Evangelii nuntiandi, Christifideles laici, Letter of the Ministers General on the Vocation and Mission of the Franciscan Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World).

e) In the study of the Church's social teaching (from Rerum Novarum onwards), pay specific attention to the duties and responsibilities of the laity.

f) Deepen the nature of spiritual and pastoral assistance to the SFO, its collegiality and the identity of the Assistant.

g) Readings: Unconfirmed Rule (1221), Memoriale propositi (1221), Supra Montem of Nicholas IV (1289) and Misericors Dei Filius, of Leo XIII (1883)

h) have pastoral experiences together, guided by the spiritual Assistant and participate in fraternity meetings, moments of prayer, and celebrations in the different phases of the life of the SFO Fraternity.

2. In Ongoing Formation

In order to bring about communion with one another by force of the common charism and as a sign of witness in the Church, in accord with the directives of the Constitutions and Statutes of the SFO and the First Order, the friars and seculars should:

a) prepare the main liturgies and celebrate them together, especially on the Franciscan feasts, and have experiences of prayer in common;

b) plan and carry out combined pastoral, charitable and social activities, with "courageous" initiatives according to the necessities of places and times.

c) study together the documents about the theology of the laity (cf. 3/d)

d) organize common meetings, assemblies, spiritual chapters and spiritual exercises;

e) in the formation meetings and in the celebration of Chapters, program moments when the seculars are present also with a message or a witness.


1. Leaders or agents

a. The General and Provincial Ministers:

a) promote the interest of their own friars with regard to the SFO and the communion between the religious and the Secular Franciscans;

b) take care of the formation and the interest of all the religious with regard to the SFO;

c) see to it that the SFO has a place in the programs of the initial and ongoing formation of the religious (6);

d) in the visits to the Fraternities of the friars, and in the Chapters, be informed about the SFO and about the quality of the assistance given to it.

b. The Provincial (Regional) and Local Spiritual Assistants:

a) are to be the first to promote, organize and animate courses and meetings for formation, in accord with the major Superiors and those responsible for formation;

b) point out formators, religious and lay, suitable for this particular formation of the friars at all levels;

c) take care of guided experiences, especially with the friars in temporary vows;

d) seek, in their pastoral visits, to have contacts with the houses of formation of the friars, providing them with information about the life and engagement of the Secular Franciscans in the Church and in society.

c. Formators of the friars

a)Those responsible for the formation of the young friars "will disclose the beauty of following Christ and the value of the charism" (VC 66) shared with the SFO.

b) They offer opportunities for growth, adhering to the charism and to the mission of the Franciscan Family (Cf. VC 66);

c) They are to be "very familiar with the path of seeking God", undertaken together with the Secular Franciscans, "so as to be able to accompany others on this journey (VC 66).

2. Methodological indications

a. Experiential method

Use, at all levels, an experiential method: integrate the formation programs with concrete experiences followed by guided reflection on these experiences.

b. Collaboration

a) On the part of the formators:

- carry out the service in a team;

- the formators and leaders of the SFO and of the other branches of the Franciscan Family are to form part of the team;

- an exchange of ideas and teaching material is to be favoured among the formators of the same linguistic area and also with those of other areas.

b) On the part of those to be formed:

- common moments, at different levels, with those to be formed who belong to other branches of the Franciscan Family.

c. Formation at a distance

- the methods of formation at a distance should also be used, through correspondence courses or networks for discussion and deeper study done together.

- it is necessary to take advantage of the modern means of communication which offer new possibilities for forming oneself and for cooperating in formation through fax, e-mail and Internet.



1. Preparation (School of Preparation)

The newly appointed spiritual Assistants need to have the possibility of preparing themselves for their specific task. It may be necessary to have a school of specific preparation at the regional level. The material to be taught will be what has been indicated above, under Initial Formation, or:

a) history and sources of the SFO;

b) vision of the specific identity of the SFO;

c) ecclesiology and the SFO;

d) secular Franciscan spirituality;

e) the Secular Franciscan in the Church and in society;

f) Franciscan values of the SFO;

g) formation of the friars regarding the SFO;

h) practical aspects of assistance to the SFO;

i) the SFO and Franciscan Youth.

j) Franciscan Children, Associate Members, Friends of St. Francis.

2. Updating of the Assistants

For the continuous updating of the Assistants, the following are recommended:

a) Renewal courses every three years, information about assistance, about the various questions that arise and about what is happening in the SFO.

b) Reading of the reviews and organs of information of the different Orders in relation to the SFO and to assistance in the national and international fields.

c) Knowledge and exchange of programmes and initiatives between national Assistants, and also between regional Assistants, especially where there is a Conference of Assistants.

3. Teaching material

The national and/or provincial spiritual Assistants are to take care to gather and continually update the specific material for formation of the Assistants with regard to the SFO, such as: sources, documents, texts of the Magisterium, manuals, leaflets, history outlines, reviews, different publications, posters, brochures, videos, music cassettes, pages on the Internet, etc.

-Teaching material is to be made available to the educators and to the friars;

- Any necessary teaching aids that are not to be found or that are difficult to find are to be prepared;

- There is to be a fraternal collaboration between the different linguistic areas, and also with other areas, especially with those that have most difficulty in finding the material and providing the translations.

4. Seminars for Assistants

a. Programme and Report of First Seminar, 17 to 20 April, 2001 (three days)

Handbook for Assistants: Contents

Spiritual Assistance: In the Documents of the First Order .

In the SFO Rule and General Constitutions .

Structures of SFO and Spiritual Assistance (Diagram).

Statutes for the Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance to the SFO .

Guidelines for the Formation of the Friars for Understanding and Assisting the SFO.

Historical Overview 1883 - 2002 (Diagram)

Appointment and Formation of Spiritual Assistants:

Explanation and Guidelines

Job Description of the Local Spiritual Assistant

Statutes of the National Fraternity of the SFO in Oceania

Statutes of a Regional Fraternity

Process for Establishing a new Fraternity, with Diagram

b. Programme and Report of Second Seminar, 15 to 18 April, 2002 (three days)

Course for Assistants: Contents

Profile of the Spiritual Assistant, Carl Schafer OFM

A Brief History of the Rules of the SFO, Christopher Shorrock OFMConv

Response, Nicholas Warne OFM

The Franciscan Charism in the Rule of the SFO, Patrick Colbourne OFMCap.

"Higher management" and "life-giving union", Carl Schafer OFM

Spiritual Assistance, Ben Brevoort OFMCap

Role of the Spiritual Assistant in Formation, Patrick Colbourne OFMCap.

Response, Simon Peter Bourke OFM

c. Programme of Third Seminar, 29 September to 1 October, 2003 (two days)

Laity in the Church: Contents

The SFO Rule, Chapter Two, Carl Schafer OFM and Peter Keogh.

Spirituality of the Laity in the Church, Patrick Colbourne OFMCap and Tod Walker.

Role of the Laity in the Church, Anthony Fox OFMConv and Barry Blake.

Role of the Assistant in the Meeting, Anthony Fox OFMConv. and Helen Jarick.

Role of the Assistant in the Formation Team, Patrick Colbourne OFMCap and Monica Tardiani.

5. Statutes for Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance to the SFO, Rome 2002, relevant to Regional and Local Assistants

The full text of these Statutes is included in the Handbook for Spiritual Assistants. I give here the references to the articles relevant to the Provincial Minister, Regional Assistant, and local Assistants:

Provincial Ministers: Art. 10 and 11

General principles: Art. 12 to 16

Regional Assistants: Art. 21 and 22

Local Assistants: Art. 23 and 24