Fraternal and Pastoral Visit

National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States

October 19-24, 2004

As part of the Fraternal and Pastoral Visit to the National Fraternity of the Secular Franciscan Order in the United States I met with the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants from 3 p.m. until 4:40 p.m. on the afternoon of October 22, 2004. The Conference is composed of:

Fr. Kevin Queally, TORPresident in Turn

Fr. Stephen Gross, OFM Conv.

Fr. Loran Connell, OFM

Fr. Lester Bach, OFM Cap.

Our conversation included reflections on the meaning and application of the altius moderamen, the process for how a local fraternity could transfer its juridical connection to the First Order or Third Order Regular to another friar obedience, and the reality of the need for Spiritual Assistants on the regional level who are not friars.

It is clear that training of Spiritual Assistants is a real and urgent need. This is true for friars, but is especially a concern for lay Spiritual Assistants. Work really needs to be done in identifying and training Spiritual Assistants.

We discussed the fact that is important for the National Spiritual Assistants to talk to their brothers - especially the major superiors - about the need for greater connection with the Secular Franciscan Order. It is also clear that the current Spiritual Assistants are aging - as is the SFO in the US as a whole. Some serious consideration and study of this reality and implications for the future is called for.

We spent time discussing various sections of the relatively new Statutes for Spiritual Assistants. I asked the members of the Conference to study the entire text in light of their own personal experience and then open up a similar discussion with Spiritual Assistants in the US. Any resulting recommendations for change or adaptation should then be forwarded to the Conference of General Spiritual Assistants.

We also discussed whether the current Ritual for the SFO is adequately meeting the needs of the SFO. Perhaps it is time to review the text, arrange for new translations of the prayers and readings, and add other appropriate sections such as wake and funeral services.

The friars who make up the Conference of National Spiritual Assistants are serious about their responsibilities, they work in a collaborative and respectful fashion, they are eminently suitable and well prepared, and, above all, they have a genuine love and affection for the Secular Franciscan Order.

As I said earlier in the week, the National Fraternity of the SFO in the US is blessed to have the quality of spiritual assistants they have.

Michael J. Higgins, TOR

General Spiritual Assistant