APPOINTMENT AND FORMATION
OF SPIRITUAL ASSISTANTS
1. Basic Principles:
1.1 The Provincial Minister of the OFM, Capuchins, Conventuals or TOR is the one ultimately responsible for appointing all spiritual assistants to the local Fraternities canonically established by his Province, and for forming them.
1.11 The Provincial Minister may, and usually does, exercise his responsibility by delegating a Provincial Spiritual Assistant. In the structures of the SFO, he is a Regional or National Assistant.
1.12 The Provincial Spiritual Assistant, when habitually delegated by his Provincial Minister, is the one ordinarily responsible for appointing and forming local spiritual Assistants. He carries out these tasks in collaboration with the Regional Spiritual Assistant of the Regional Fraternity to which the particular local Fraternity belongs, and in consultation and cooperation with the Council of the local Fraternity in need of a spiritual Assistant.
1.2 In the National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order in Oceania, the preferred choice of a spiritual Assistant (GC 89.4) is as follows:
1.21 A friar of the Province of the friars who established the local Fraternity, or who are at present responsible for its spiritual assistance.
1.22 A friar of one of the other two Orders of friars assisting the SFO in Oceania.
1.23 A religious, man or woman, of another Franciscan Congregation or Institute.
1.24 A diocesan cleric who is a member of the SFO.
1.25 A professed lay member of the SFO, preferably not a member of the local Fraternity needing spiritual assistance.
1.26 A diocesan cleric who is not a member of the SFO.
1.27 A religious, man or woman, who is not a Franciscan.
1.3 If a local Assistant has not been appointed to a local Fraternity, and where a spiritual Assistant who is not a friar has been appointed, the Regional Assistant, if one has been appointed, or else the Provincial Assistant, is canonically the Spiritual Assistant to the local Fraternity.
2. Appointment of Spiritual Assistants:
2.1 The initiative for choosing a suitable and well prepared spiritual assistant for a local Fraternity should be taken by the friars responsible for providing spiritual assistance to that Fraternity. If the initiative is not taken by the friars, the request must come from the Council of the local Fraternity.
2.2 The friars responsible for providing spiritual assistance:
2.21 should take the initiative in seeking out a suitable and well prepared spiritual Assistant for a local Fraternity when:
the Regional or Provincial Assistant is aware that the current local Assistant is moving and a replacement needs to be found;
an outgoing local Assistant has recommended a replacement;
a particular problem requires the intervention of the Regional or Provincial
2.22 must ascertain that the candidate, whether religious or secular, is qualified and experienced in Secular Franciscan spirituality, life and mission.
2.23 must consult the Council of the local Fraternity needing spiritual assistance, regarding whether the proposed person is both acceptable and suitable for the needs of the Fraternity.
2.24 must obtain the permission of the religious or diocesan Superior if the candidate is a member of a religious Institute other than the Province of the friars responsible for spiritual assistance, or a member of the diocesan clergy.
2.25 should appoint the spiritual Assistant officially and formally, in writing, indicating that the appointment is ultimately the responsibility of the friar Provincial Minister, either in person or by delegation to the Provincial (Regional or National) Assistant.
2.26 may terminate the appointment of a spiritual Assistant at any time with notice, or withdraw delegation for particular acts.
2.3 The Councillors of the local Fraternity:
2.31 may not appoint or engage a spiritual Assistant on their own initiative.
2.32 must request a suitable and well prepared spiritual Assistant if:
the initiative to appoint one has not been taken by the friars responsible for providing spiritual assistance to the local Fraternity;
they are without an appointed spiritual Assistant;
their concerns about spiritual assistance are unresolved after dialogue with
the local Spiritual Assistant.
2.33 inform the appropriate Regional Assistant or, if the Regional Assistant has not been appointed, inform the appropriate National Assistant, of the need for a local Assistant and, if possible, submit the names and backgrounds of candidates whom they consider to be suitable and well prepared. (The Regional or National Assistant keeps the Regional or National Executive informed.)
2.34 after having been consulted by the appropriate Regional or National Assistant, await the appointment of the local Assistant.
3. Formation of Spiritual Assistants:
3.1 All friars, both clerics and lay, should be introduced to the Secular Franciscan Order during the years of their initial religious formation. The Provincial Assistants should offer their services to the religious formators and promote a course along the lines of Guidelines for the Formation of the Friars for Understanding and Assisting the SFO.
3.2 The specialized formation of spiritual Assistants is in two stages: initial and ongoing. It is primarily the responsibility of the National Spiritual Assistant, with the collaboration of the Regional Assistants, to ensure that both stages are provided for.
3.3 The National and Regional Assistants should engage the collaboration of the SFO Regional Councils, who have the duty to provide for the formation of those responsible for animation, and of the National Council, whose duty it is to coordinate the activities of the Regional Councils.
3.4 The initial formation of new local spiritual Assistants consists of:
3.41 participation in a course conducted by a Conference of Regional Assistants, or by each Regional Assistant for those who are spiritually assisting local Fraternities established by the friars of his Province. Or else the course is conducted by the Conference of National Assistants.
3.42 The contents of the course includes:
a survey of the Franciscan charism, in both its religious and secular dimensions;
a history of the Secular Franciscan Order;
an explanation of the "life-giving union" of Franciscans, secular and religious, and of the "higher direction" of the religious major Superiors;
an explanation of "spiritual assistance" of the SFO.
3.43 A handbook for spiritual assistance is presented and explained. It includes:
texts pertaining to the SFO in the documents of the OFM, Capuchins, and Conventuals;
the texts of the Rule and General Constitutions pertaining to the spiritual assistance of the SFO. (The complete Rule, General Constitutions, and Ritual of the SFO are published in a companion volume.)
Statutes for the Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance to the SFO;
Guidelines for the Formation of the Friars for Understanding and Assisting the SFO;
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.
3.5 The ongoing formation of spiritual assistants consists of:
3.51 communications from the General Assistants (e.g., OFM Letter to the Assistants), from the Conference of General Assistants (Koinonia), from the National Fraternity (Oceania Newsletter); from the Regional Fraternity;
3.52 a triennial seminar for regional and local Assistants sponsored by the Conference of National Assistants.