The Statutes for Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance to the Secular Franciscan Order provide a concise job description of the General Spiritual Assistants in Articles 17 and 18:


Art. 17


1.         The general Assistants are appointed by their respective general Minister, after consultation with the Presidency of the International Council of the SFO [1].

2.         They give their service to the Presidency of the International Council of the SFO, form a conference, and collegially see to the spiritual assistance to the SFO as a whole [2].

3.         It is the responsibility of the Conference of General Assistants:

‑‑ to collaborate with the International Council and its Presidency in the spiritual and apostolic animation of the SFO and in a special way in the formation of the secular leaders;

‑‑ to co-ordinate, at the international level, the spiritual assistance to the SFO and the Franciscan Youth;

‑‑ to foster the interest of the friars and their Superiors in the SFO and in the Franciscan Youth;

‑‑ to provide for the pastoral visits of the national Councils of the SFO [3] and the presence at the national elective Chapters [4].


Art. 18


1.         The general Assistant must keep his general Minister and his Order informed on the life and activities of the SFO and the Franciscan Youth.


2.         He shall also deal with matters regarding the service of assistance given by his Order to the SFO and to the Franciscan Youth, meet the local fraternities assisted by his own Order and keep constant fraternal contacts with the Assistants of his own Order.





The Conference of General Spiritual Assistants (CAS) is composed of one General Assistant from each of four Orders of friars: Friars Minor (OFM), Friars Minor Capuchin (OFMCap), Friars Minor Conventual (OFMConv) and friars of the Third Order Regular (TOR).


Meetings of the Conference


The frequent meetings of the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants take one of three forms:

a)   Live-in periods

Once a year, the Conference meets for a period of three or four days to review the responsibilities and commitments of its members, to plan the coming year and, above all, to live in fraternity.

b)   Monthly meetings

With the exception of the holiday month of August, the Conference generally meets once a month.  The topics discussed in these meetings can be summarized under three headings that the Conference needs to review before taking specific action: animation, formation and collaboration in the study and solution of problems posed by the day to day life of SFO Fraternities.  Furthermore, at these meetings the members share reports of pastoral visits, program participation at national chapters, and the delegation of an Assistant if none of the General Assistants can be present at a chapter or meeting.


Apart from these meetings, which normally are fixed during the planning session of our live-in periods, there is a number of other meetings which are much more frequent and are held as the needs of the SFO warrant them.


c)    Prayer meetings

Every second Friday of the month, except in August, the General Spiritual Assistants, the Minister General (when available) and secretarial collaborators, participate in a prayer meeting held at the CIOFS Secretariat. They share news regarding the life of the International Fraternity and update programs of meetings, visits and national elective chapters.


The General Assistants translate and correct articles for the CIOFS Bulletin and for other publications and correspondence.





The tasks of the General Spiritual Assistants and their Conference are therefore:


To animate: to intensify formation at all levels of fraternity in order to strengthen the sense of belonging to an Order of penance, one which is Secular and Franciscan, to raise the civic consciousness of secular Franciscans in the areas of “Justice, Peace and Care of Creation,” and to stimulate the formation of the friars to improve the quality of spiritual assistance.


To guide: to participate actively and to encourage that of the International Councilors in their respective areas, to empower fraternal and pastoral visits and to maintain the unity of the Order in the areas of norms, structures and guidelines for formation and ministry.


To coordinate: to encourage communication between fraternities at all levels: local, regional, national and international, horizontally and vertically, and also between Spiritual Assistants of the SFO on all levels with the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants.


To Animate


The animation of the Secular Franciscan Order - with the goal to live the Gospel in fraternal communion - is concretized in the formation of the members of the SFO.


The Ministers General entrust to the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants the task of making the Statutes for the Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance to the SFO known to all the brothers of the Franciscan First Order and the Third Order Regular and to foster the understanding and study of the text. The General Assistants insist on an adequate formation of all friars for the SFO and, more specifically, the formation of all candidates to Franciscan life.


The General Assistants emphasize the need for formation and information about the SFO in the centers of initial and ongoing formation of the First Order and the Third Order Regular, so that the friars may come to know and appreciate the lay aspect of the Franciscan charism that enriches and completes its religious aspect.


Meetings of the Presidency of CIOFS

The General Spiritual Assistants are members of the Presidency of the International Council of the Secular Franciscan Order. The Presidency meets approximately once every six months. The Assistants participate in all meetings of the Presidency, specifically by preparing the prayers and by celebrating the Eucharist. They participate also in the projects of the Presidency.


The present SFO General Constitutions stress that the task of the Spiritual Assistant is not sacramental but rather spiritual assistance.



To collaborate in the animation and formation of Assistants, the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants plans seminars at the international and national levels.



The General Spiritual Assistants are present and participate in SFO congresses and are a sign of animation and formation for Secular Franciscans and Spiritual Assistants alike.


To Guide


In collaboration with the Presidency of CIOFS, the General Spiritual Assistants play an active role in the guidance of the Secular Franciscan Order by their presence at national chapters, and by devoting special attention to pastoral visits, normally held at same time as fraternal visits. As a clear sign of communion in the same Franciscan charism and of co-responsibility in the animation and the formation of SFO fraternities (cf. SFO Rule 26), a General Spiritual Assistant or a delegate of the Conference is present with the secular member of the SFO who presides over a national elective chapter.


Pastoral visits

The General Assistant conducts the pastoral visit at the national level "to revive the evangelical Franciscan spirit, to assure fidelity to the charism and to the Rule, to offer help to fraternity life, to reinforce the bond of the unity of the Order, and to promote its most effective insertion into the Franciscan family and the Church" (SFO Const. 92.1).


The General Assistant holds the pastoral visit outside the national elective chapter and together with the fraternal visit so as to be able to exchange impressions and ideas with the fraternal visitor.


The Conference of General Spiritual Assistants collaborates with the Presidency of CIOFS in the process towards achieving the unity of the Secular Franciscan Order.


To Coordinate


The Conference of General Spiritual Assistants, together with the Presidency of CIOFS, promotes the coordination of communication.



Four times a year, the Conference publishes Koinonia, a small newsletter, which consists of a main article and information (news in brief). Koinonia is a simple instrument of formation of the Assistants and of communication with them. It is published in four languages: English, French, Italian and Spanish.  Copies are sent to major superiors and to local, regional and national Assistants.


The General Spiritual Assistants collaborate with the Presidency of CIOFS in formation and Franciscan Youth.  In the field of formation they help through meetings and seminars. In the animation and promotion of the Franciscan Youth, they present the youth with a rich and consistent formation in human, Christian and Franciscan values. They expose youth to the great variety of possible vocations in the whole Franciscan family.


Three specific aspects of the Assistants' action – assistance, animation and formation – are realized in a spirit of collaboration within the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants, between the Conference and the CIOFS Presidency, and with the Conference of Ministers General of the First Order and the Third Order Regular.





The General Assistants have the following goals: to foster communion with the Church, to witness to the fraternal affection and bond of communion with all those who want to live the charism of Saint Francis, and to cooperate actively in formation.  They realize their goals collegially through and within the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants. The animation of friars to know and assist the SFO is the task and competence of each General Assistant regarding his own Order. But the General Assistants work together in this endeavor as they stress the aspects of the secularity, unity and autonomy of the SFO.


The President in turn of the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants meets with the Conference of Ministers General as an expression of collegial assistance to the SFO. In addition, the Conference gives an account of its functioning to the Conference of Ministers General through a short annual report.





Specific projects that are included in the job description of the General Assistants and their Conference are the following:


1.         Plan and conduct formative meetings and seminars for national, regional and local Assistants, and also for other Franciscan religious

2.         Plan pastoral visits, specifically to national fraternities, and promotion of collegial assistance at national and regional levels.

3.         Promote and animate vocations, in order to invite men and women to follow Christ in the manner of Saint Francis in the secular and religious states of life.

4.         Encourage collaboration between Assistants and SFO leadership in the formation and growth of the Franciscan Youth Movement.

5.         Promote meetings of adolescents and children in order to initiate them in the knowledge of Saint Francis and the Franciscan Family.

6.         Encourage sharing of existing formation materials by putting them at the disposition of fraternities who need them most.

7.         Care for the collaboration and involvement of Secular Franciscans in apostolic and social initiatives of their fraternity in preference to those of individual persons.

8.         Promote a culture of collaboration, cooperation and co-responsibility between secular and religious Franciscans especially in the fields of administration and collaboration in their missions.

9.         Animate secular Franciscans to be instruments of unity, of peace and of fraternity in a divided and violent world and to be promoters of justice, peace and care for creation.

10.       Develop a sense of belonging to the Order in the Church and in society but also in regard to contributing economically to their own Order.

[1] This job description is based on the Statutes for Assistance (2002) and the Report of the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants to the Tenth General Chapter of the SFO (2002).