On November 10-15, 2019, the first international formation course for National Spiritual Assistants to the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS) and the Franciscan Youth (YouFra) took place at the Seraphicum College in Rome.

There has been a longstanding need for a formation course for National Spiritual Assistants to the OFS-YouFra. In addition to providing formation, the course organizers wanted to promote collaboration and union between the National Spiritual Assistants. This first international course was attended by sixty friars, coming from thirty-seven different countries. Those present included nine Friars Minor Conventual; twenty-one Friars Minor; twenty-two Friars Minor Capuchin; and eight friars of the Third Order Regular. Forty of the participating friars were English speakers and twenty were Spanish speakers.
Lectures were offered in English, with simultaneous translation into Spanish. Each presentation was comprised of four stages, lecture, group work, group reporting and meeting in assembly with the possibility of dialoguing with the speaker. The topics covered during this course included OFS History; OFS Spirituality; OFA Official Documents; Spiritual Assistance to the OFS-YouFra; the Relevance of the Franciscan Charism; the Active Presence of the OFS in the Church and in the World; the OFS and a Friar’s Formation Path; and Promoting YouFra. All course materials were made available to the participants; although a good part of the content was only available in English.
Every day began with Mass and concluded with Evening Prayer. There was also evening recreation on occasion. The OFS Minister General, Tibor KAUSER, and Ana FRUK, a Presidency Councilor of the OFS, guided the various course events. The Minister General of the Conventual Franciscans, Friar Carlos TROVARELLI, presided over one of the Masses and spent a day with the participants, giving the National Spiritual Assistants from his Order a chance to meet with him. On Wednesday, November 13, the participants attended a general audience with the Holy Father Pope Francis. The Pope gave a special greeting to the OFS National Spiritual Assistants. On Friday, November 15, the Minister General of the Third Order Regular, and one of the course animators, Friar Amando TRUJILLO CANO presided over the closing Mass.
The course organizers are grateful to the four Ministers General for approving this initiative and providing 90% of its funding. The organizers also thank the other donors: the National Council of Spiritual Assistants in the USA and the OFS of South Korea. Finally, they thank the fraternity of the Seraphicum and their collaborators for their welcome and generosity.
This meeting is only a beginning; training friars how to assist OFS and YouFra must continue with other equally engaging proposals.

Friar Alfred PARAMBAKATHU, General Spiritual Assistant to the OFS