Irudaya Samy, OFMCap., General Assistant SFO

Much is made of the responsibility of the Major Superiors of the First Order and TOR in the area of "spiritual assistance". As well as the establishment, spiritual animation and visitation of the local Fraternities [23], they should keep themselves informed about "the spiritual assistance given to the SFO" [24] and "foster the interest of their own religious in the SFO, and ensure that suitable and well prepared persons are appointed for the service of spiritual assistance" [25].

The designation of suitable, trained friars to provide this assistance arises out of the interest that the Major Superiors themselves have in the Secular Franciscans, in their spirituality, mission and task in society and in the Church. Today many Franciscan religious are attracted by other ecclesial groups or movements, and often do not realize that Secular Franciscans are their companions in the same life and mission in the secular sphere, with the same vocation to a shared gospel charism.

The sense of family that exists between the SFO and the First Order and TOR is also manifested in the shared process of appointing the Spiritual Assistant: the SFO Council asks for the Assistant [26], the Provincial Minister consults the Council and both discuss and eventually agree on the one who is most suitable for the fraternity concerned: "The competent major superior, having consulted the council of the fraternity concerned, appoints the Assistant in accordance with the norms of these Constitutions and of the Statutes for Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance to the SFO" [27].

Tasks of the major superiors:


The spiritual and pastoral care of the SFO is above all a duty of the major superiors of the First Order-TOR [28].

They can exercise this task personally or through a delegate [29].

The Franciscan major superiors are responsible for the quality of the pastoral service and spiritual assistance, even in cases where the appointment of the Assistant requires the prior authorization of a religious superior or of the local Ordinary [30].

In addition, they must look after the formation and interest of the friars regarding the SFO, and should provide specific training for the Assistants so that they are suitable and well prepared [31].

The major superiors of the First Order-TOR agree on the best way of ensuring spiritual assistance to those fraternities which, for reasons outside their control, are deprived of it [32].

They should also take care to be in contact with the local Ordinary in places where local fraternities of the SFO are established. They should respect the particular law (of the SFO) and assume responsibility for the pastoral and spiritual care of those fraternities, entrusting it to one of their priests or to a religious Institute.

The provincial Ministers

The Provincial Ministers and other major superiors exercise their competence with regard to the SFO in the territory of their own jurisdiction.

Where more than one major superior has jurisdiction in the same territory, all agree on the best way to carry out their functions collegially for the regional and national Fraternities of the SFO [33].

They also determine collegially the manner of appointing the national and regional Assistants, and also decide which Superiors the national and regional SFO Councils should approach to request an Assistant [34].

The provincial Minister and the other major superiors ensure spiritual assistance to the local Fraternities entrusted to their own jurisdiction [35].

It is their duty in particular, in the name of their own jurisdiction: to animate spiritually, to visit and to meet the local Fraternities assisted by their own Order; to keep themselves informed about the spiritual assistance given to the SFO and to GiFra, [36] and to appoint the spiritual Assistants [37].


The ideal Assistant, as seen by the National Council of France [38], should:

- have a great spiritual quality about his life, a strong interior life animated by regular prayer;

- have an appreciation of mystery, recognizing that everything comes from God;

- possess a certain interior consistency (clarity regarding his own self);

- be humble, with a sense of service;

- recognize and accept his own limitations;

- regard all people positively and have profound respect for the experiences of others;

- be a good listener and know how to "bide his time";

- have a good dose of common sense;

- be involved in life in down-to-earth ways;

- allow himself to be formed by the Fraternity;

- have a good knowledge of St Francis.


[23] Cf. SFO General Constitutions (GC), 88.2.a-c

[24] GG 88.2.c

[25] GC 88.1

[26] cf.GC 91.1

[27] GC 91.3

[28] cf. SFO Rule, 26; GC 85,2

[29] cf. GC 86.1

[30] cf. GC 89.5

[31] cf. GC 87.3; SFO Rule 26

[32] GC 88.4

[33] GC 88.5

[34] cf. GC 91.2

[35] cf. GC 88.1

[36] cf. GC 88.2

[37] cf. GC 89.2; 91.3.

[38] CIOFS Bulletin, 1998, N.1