THE ROLE OF THE SPIRITUAL ASSISTANT
IN THE FORMATION TEAM
"to live in life-giving reciprocal communion with all the members
of the Franciscan family" (SFO Constitutions 98.1)
Fr. Patrick Colbourne OFMCap., National Assistant SFO-Oceania
* The Agents of Formation - The Holy Spirit, the individuals themselves, the fraternity, designated persons, i.e., the Master of Formation, who is a delegate of the fraternity council, and the Spiritual Assistant, who is a delegate of the religious major superior.
* SFO Constitutions - 40 deals with the time, content, place and style of initial formation; 44 deals with continuing formation; 52.3 deals with the Master of Formation. Title V deals with spiritual and pastoral assistance to the SFO, and, while it generally covers legal matters, it indicates that, "By virtue of the vital reciprocity between the religious and the secular members of the Franciscan Family and in regard to the responsibilities of major superiors, spiritual assistance to the fraternities of the SFO at all levels must be assured as a fundamental element of communion" (89.1).
* Whereas there is no specific mention of what in religious orders is called integral formation, i.e., the formation of the whole person in the total journey of human and spiritual development, the SFO legislation places importance on the fraternity as a contributor to formation. "Participation in the meetings of the local fraternity is an indispensable presupposition for initiation into community prayer and into fraternity life" (40.3).
* When speaking of the role of the "Master of Formation", the Constitutions refer to initial formation of candidates or support for the newly professed, and so do not define precisely who is responsible for continuing formation or what is the role of formators at the regional or national level.
* While it is clear that the altius moderamen involves caring of fidelity to the authenticity of doctrines of the faith and of the Franciscan charism, there is still a wide field for transmitting the concrete experience of Franciscan spirituality as it is lived in a secular context. The most effective example of such a life can only be given by a Secular Franciscan.
* In any formation initiative, the Spiritual Assistant and the formation delegate of the fraternity council need to operate in tandem if their efforts are to be successful. Those being formed should freely address their questions or inquiries to either one without any fear that either would take offense.
* On the other hand, neither one of these should monopolise formation sessions. Both need to remember that the fraternity and the fraternity council rank ahead of them in the list of agents of formation.
* It is perhaps in this area where communion between the various members of the Franciscan Family is best exemplified.