(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2022 Issue of TAU-USA #105)
The Saturday afternoon session with the Spiritual Assistants and the National Executive Council (NEC) tackled questions that attendees submitted.
About spiritual assistants:
Discernment is recommended for those OFS interested in becoming spiritual assistants. The CNSA website offers some direction. More than one interview is necessary. We need to get more familiar with the person and learn about his/her background.
About formation and enrichment for spiritual assistants:
The quality of formation of the spiritual assistant is critical. Mentors should be provided for beginning spiritual assistants. The NAFRA website offers guidelines on how to establish a Spiritual Assistant program. There will be some enrichment at the Q. But also, when the national assistants meet, they often invite local spiritual assistants to join them.
Responsibilities of secular spiritual assistants:
Secular spiritual assistants should not be assigned to serve in their own fraternities. When a Friar Province considers this, we should discourage them. If secular spiritual assistants are assigned to their own fraternity, they must know in advance that they give up their vote when they become a spiritual assistant. The role of the spiritual assistant is to “bridge the divide between the friars and OFS.”
Communication with friars:
Sometimes, the friars do not answer e-mails. If they don’t respond one way, try another way. Don’t presume that e-mails are read and remembered. Be persistent and creative. If you know someone in the province, ask for help or ask the national spiritual assistant of the same obedience.
Canonical establishment document:
Information is available in the revised Spiritual Assistant Handbook which is available digitally on the website.
Establishment of other Third Order Groups:
Encourage members to inform the regional ministers of when other groups are reaching out in their region. Some groups appear to selectively defend Catholic teaching, refuse to dialogue, and may be cult-like in how they engage with the world. However, any friar province may establish other Third Order groups. It is important that we stand firm in what we believe. Recent breakaway groups profess the Leonine Rule. We abrogated that rule. Our profession was made under the Pauline Rule. Let us remember what we professed to and allow ourselves to be challenged by it. Be aware. Educate. Communicate. Be prepared.
Same-sex legal unions:
We follow church teaching even when it is difficult or inconvenient. Therefore, unions outside of those blessed by the church are not compatible with membership in the OFS (for example, same-sex unions). Harmony with the Church is important. The CNSA and NEC can help guide the process of dialogue for the fraternity’s leadership to shepherd the member in such a situation to discern which commitment they will choose to follow; a printed guide is being developed.
Revision of Ritual:
The Council has finally been able to negotiate the purchase of the copyright of the Ritual. This will allow the National Fraternity to begin both the updating of the English version and then the translation into Spanish and other languages. Work has just begun, spearheaded by the CNSA, and we are asking members for anything they may want considered for inclusion.
Modifications were made to the wording of some of the amendments in the Duns Scotus Formation Fund Principles and Procedures document. Nominations should be submitted to the NEC for new members of the board. Any fraternity or fraternity member seeking funding for special formation programs can go on-line to secularfranciscansusa.org under the tab, “Resources: Guidelines, Forms, and Other Resources.”
A revision of the National Statues is being considered. The ministers were asked to send suggestions and give direction to the Executive Council.