The Secular Franciscan Order belongs to the Franciscan Family and is “formed by the organic union of all the Catholic fraternities, whose members, moved by the Holy Spirit, commit themselves through profession to live the Gospel after the manner of St. Francis in their secular state following the Rule approved by the Church” (Const. 1,3).
“The rule and life of the Secular Franciscans is this: to observe the gospel of our Lord Jesus christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the centre of his life with God and people…. They should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the gospel, going from gospel to life and life to the gospel.” ( Rule Article 4).
According to the latest Statistics (31-12-2002), the SFO has about 400.000 professed members.
STRUCTURE OF THE SECULAR FRANCISCAN ORDER
The Secular Franciscan Order is divided into Fraternities at various levels: local, regional, national and international. Each of these Fraternities is animated and guided by its Council and a Minister or President.
THE LOCAL FRATERNITY
The local Fraternity is “the basic unit of the whole Order and is a visible sign of the Church, the community of love. This should be the privileged place for developing a sense of Church and the Franciscan vocation and for enlivening the apostolic life of its members” (Rule Article 22).
“The fraternity must offer to its members opportunities for coming together and collaborating through meetings to be held with as great a frequency as allowed by the situation and, with the involvement of all its members” (Constitutions 53,1)
“The council of the local fraternity is composed of the following offices: minister, vice-minister, secretary, treasurer, and master of formation. Other offices may be added according to the needs of each fraternity. The spiritual assistant of the fraternity forms part of the council by right (Constitutions 49,1-2)
THE REGIONAL FRATERNITY
The regional Fraternity “assures the link between the local Fraternities and the national Fraternity” (Constitutions 61).
“The regional Fraternity is animated and guided by a Minister, or President, and by a Council who are duly elected” (Constitutions 61,3).
THE NATIONAL FRATERNITY
“The national Fraternity is the organic union of local Fraternities existing within the territory of States or of national entitities” (Constitutions 65,1).
“The national Fraternity… is animated and guided by a Minister or President and by a Council who are duly elected” (Constitutions 65,3).
THE INTERNATIONAL FRATERNITY
“The international Fraternity is constituted by the organic union of alll the Catholic Secular Franciscan Fraternities in the world. It is identical with the SFO (Constitutions 69,1).
“The international Fraternity is guided and animated by the Minister or President with the International Council (CIOFS), that has its seat in Rome (Italy)” (Constitutions 69,2).
“The International Council meets in the SFO General Chapter with legislative, deliberative and elective powers” (Constitutions 70,3).
“The Presidency of the International Council SFO is constituted within the International Council of which it forms an integral part” ( Constitutions 70,2).
“The duties and tasks of the Presidency are… to coordinate, animate and guide the SFO at the international level… to attend to the resolution of urgent problems”