A Spiritual Assistant is one who serves a Secular Franciscan Fraternity as a member of that fraternity's council and who is specially charged with maintaining the "vital reciprocity" between the OFS, the 1st Order/TOR, and the Church. A Spiritual Assistant to the OFS links both the Church and the Franciscan First Order/TOR to the OFS. Spiritual assistants are responsible for fulfilling the mandate of the Church to assure the OFS's relationship to the Church and for maintaining the Franciscan family connections between the OFS and the First Order (O.F.M., O.F.M. Conventuals, O.F.M. Capuchins)/TOR (Third Order Regular). Spiritual Assistants participate in the altius moderamen, i.e., te 1st Order/TOR's responsibility to guarantee the OFS's fidelity to the Franciscan charism, communion with the Church and a life-giving union within the Franciscan family. The First Order/TOR major superiors or their delegated General/Provincial Spiritual Assistants appoint Spiritual Assistants to various levels of the OFS. Spiritual Assistants need knowledge and experience to enable them to give appropriate and competent spiritual assistance to local, regional, national and international councils.
The principal task of the assistant is to communicate Franciscan spirituality and to co-operate in the initial and continuing formation of the brothers and sisters of a fraternity. (Gen'l. Constitutions, Art. 90.1) The Spiritual Assistant is to be a witness of Franciscan spirituality and of the fraternal affection of the religious towards the Secular Franciscans and to be a bond of communion between the First Order/TOR and the OFS. (Statutes for Spiritul & PAstoral Assistance to the OFS, Art. 12.2.)
A Spiritual Assistant is not a director of fraternity life. Rather, the SA participates as an equal member of a council, assists in the ongoing formation of the council, and participates in the discussions and decisions of the council. The SA also assists with the initial formation provided to those who are preparing to come into the Order.
A SA can be a member of the 1st Order/TOR, of the 2nd Order (Poor Clares), or of one of the Orders of sisters who follow the TOR rule, or a trained Secular Franciscan, or a diocesan or other priest or deacon.