REGIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSISTANT
In the SFO Rule, General Constitutions and Statutes for Assistance, the job description of the Regional Spiritual Assistant follows the same lines as that of the National Spiritual Assistant. But there are notable differences, which are indicated in the following:
1. Any consideration of the job description of the Regional Spiritual Assistant must begin with Article 26 of the SFO Rule: “As a concrete sign of communion and co-responsibility, the (SFO) councils on various levels ... shall ask for suitable and well prepared religious for spiritual assistance. They should make this request to the superiors of the four religious Franciscan families, to whom the Secular Fraternity has been united for centuries.”
From this, we gather that the Regional Assistant is to be “suitable and well prepared”, and be an instrument of “communion and co-responsibility” in relation to the SFO Regional Council.
2. After the SFO Rule, the SFO General Constitutions are the most authoritative source of information for arriving at the job description of the Regional Assistant.
First, the Constitutions establish the identity of the Regional Assistant. The Regional Assistant should be a Franciscan religious, member of the First Order or the TOR (89.3). This should always be possible. He is to be: a witness of Franciscan spirituality; a witness of the fraternal affection of the friars towards the Secular Franciscans; a bond of communion between his Order and the SFO (89.3).
Then, the Constitutions establish the job of the Regional Assistant. His principal task is to communicate Franciscan spirituality and to co-operate in the continuing formation of the members of the Regional Council and Regional Fraternity (90.1). His co-operation in the initial formation of Secular Franciscans involves him possibly in the supervision and implementation, in the Regional Fraternity, of the National Council’s formation programmes and texts.
The Regional Assistant gives his service to the Regional Council, and collaborates with it in all its activities. He is a voting member of the Regional Council, except that he does not vote on its financial dispositions (90.2), or in its elections (implicit in 77.2).
The Regional Assistant sees to the spiritual assistance to the SFO in the whole territory of the Regional Fraternity, wherever his Order has established local Fraternities. He and the two other Regional Assistants form a Conference and they give their service to the Regional Fraternity collegially (90.3.c).
Much of the job of the Regional Assistant is described in his making pastoral visits. It is the task of the Regional Assistant to visit the local Fraternities.
Article 26 of the SFO Rule outlines the goals of the Regional Assistant’s pastoral visit: to promote fidelity to the Secular Franciscan charism; to promote observance of the SFO Rule (and General Constitutions, 95.1); to support the life of the Regional Fraternity.
The SFO Constitutions add some more goals: to revive the evangelical Franciscan spirit; to reinforce the bond of the unity of the SFO; to promote its most effective insertion into the Franciscan family and the Church (92.1).
The Regional Assistant, as Visitor, gives attention to the relations between the local Fraternity and its local Spiritual Assistant. If possible, he meets the Parish Priest, to foster communion and service for building up the local Church (95.2).
The Regional Assistant-Visitor promotes collaboration and co-responsibility between the local Assistant(s) and the local Minister and Council. He examines the quality of the spiritual assistance given by the local Assistant(s) to the local Fraternity, encourages the local Assistant in his service, and promotes his spiritual and pastoral formation, e.g., by encouraging him to attend regional and national seminars for Assistants (95.3).
The Regional Assistant-Visitor gives special attention to programmes, methods and experiences of formation at the local level, also to the liturgical and prayer life, and to the apostolic activities of the local Fraternity (95.4).
3. After the SFO General Constitutions, the Statutes for Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance to the SFO are an authoritative source of information about the job of the Regional Assistant. Articles 21 and 22 of the Statutes are basically a summary of the indications of the SFO Rule and General Constitutions as they apply to the Regional Assistant, but they also include some other elements.
With regard to his own Order, the Regional Assistant is to keep his Provincial Minister, and any other major Superiors of his Order, informed about the life and activities of the SFO in the Regional Fraternity (22.1).
He is to deal with matters regarding the service of assistance given by his Order to the SFO in the Regional Fraternity. He is to meet the local fraternities assisted by his own Order and to keep constant fraternal contacts with the local Assistants of his own Order (22.2), e.g., by regular newsletters.
When Article 13.3 of the Statutes for Assistance is applied specifically to the Regional Assistant, we see that the Regional Assistant participates actively and votes in the discussions and decisions taken by the Regional Council or by the Regional Chapter. He is specifically responsible for the animation of liturgical celebrations and spiritual reflections during the meetings of the Regional Council or of the Regional Chapter.
Conference of Regional Assistants
The Statutes describe the job of the Regional Assistant mostly in his working in a Conference of Regional Assistants (21.3).
It is the responsibility of the Conference to collaborate with the Regional Council in the task of spiritual and apostolic animation of the secular Franciscans in the life of the Church and of the society of the territory of the Regional Fraternity, and in a special way in the formation of the SFO leaders.
The Conference is to provide for the pastoral visits of the local Councils and to ensure a presence at the local elective Chapters.
The Conference coordinates at the regional level the service of spiritual assistance, the formation of the Assistants, and the fraternal union among them.
The Conference is to foster the interest of the friars in the SFO, and in the Franciscan Youth Movement where it exists.