Delegate of the General Minister for the SFO
The Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) is the secular movement within the Franciscan Family, consisting mainly of lay people but also of diocesan priests and deacons who commit themselves to living the Gospel in fraternity after the example of St. Francis of Assisi -- each according to his or her state of life. While the Franciscan men and women religious are divided into various families (e.g. Friars Minor, Conventuals, Capuchins, etc.), the SFO is a unique movement shaped by a coherent union of fraternities scattered throughout the world. The SFO is coordinated by canonically elected members to form councils at different levels - local, regional, national and international. The International Council (or General Chapter) and its President (Presidential Council) coordinate the Order worldwide. At all levels, the altius moderamen (referred to in Canon 303) dictates that spiritual and pastoral assistance belongs to the Friars of the First Order and Franciscan TOR.
Service to the SFO
The four General Assistants, appointed by the General Ministers of the Friars Minor, Conventuals, Capuchins and the TOR, are members of the Presidency of the International Council, with whom they share responsibility for the coordination and animation of the SFO at the worldwide level. Their specific task is pastoral and spiritual assistance to the unified movement of the SFO, carried out collectively. They form the Conference of General Assistants and meet nine or ten times a year to plan the different activities and share information and responsibilities from the various parts of the world. A particular work is that of pastoral visits to national councils and being present at national chapters.
The General Assistant (or Delegate of the General Minister for the SFO) carries out his service in close collaboration with the other General Assistants and with the President of the International Council.
Service within the Capuchin Order
Each of the four Assistants has an important job to do within his Order. Friar Francis Bongajum Dor has the specific task of helping the Capuchin friars to “manifest to the members of the Secular Franciscan Order a truly fraternal sense, to nourish their fidelity to the gospel life with their example and to effectively promote the same Order both among the secular clergy and among the laity "(Const 102:5). Spiritual assistance to the SFO is not an apostolate entrusted to experts but is part of the life of the evangelical fraternity lived together with the Seculars. Hence the insistence on the need for the formation of all the friars, and not just the spiritual assistants or friars in initial formation, so that they all become aware of the SFO.
The Office of General Assistant to the SFO can help facilitate contacts between spiritual assistants and those responsible for the SFO on the various continents. He is willing to help with the formation of the friars of the different provinces in regards to the SFO. He can provide information on formation tools, texts and material, and can also organize people, including the General Assistant himself, who can give formation courses to the friars. These courses must be prepared at least six months in advance, since it's rarely possible to find people when such activities are requested only a few weeks ahead of time. The same must be said when requesting a visit from the General Assistant himself.
General Assistant to the SFO: Br. Tomas Ginga Panzo Suva (Angola)
Fr. Tomas Ginga Panzo Suva (Angola)