The Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) shares in the common charism of the Franciscan family and among the various ministries of our Order SFO has a prominent role. It is the responsibility of the Friars to give adequate spiritual assistance and impart to them the spirituality of St. Francis.
The pastoral care of the Secular Franciscan Order is entrusted to the First Order and TOR. In India, the four Obediences are actively involved for the development of SFO. The beginning of the SFO in India takes us back to 1872. It is interesting to read from the history that the spiritual assistance of the first fraternities was attached to the Conventual Franciscan Friars, though there was no presence of any of the Friars. It was on 5 October 1949, that the Capuchin Friars took over the pastoral assistance of all the fraternities in Kerala. Eventually came all other branches of the First Order and TOR.
We began our first fraternity at Kolbe Franciscan Ashram, Aluva in 1994. In the same year a fraternity at Franciscan Ashram, Nattakkal was also established. Later in 1999 the fraternities that were in the diocese of Kanjirappally had been handed over to us by the Capuchins. There has been a tremendous revival for the SFO during these last four years. Mainly: a) The number of fraternities increased, b) more Friars were interested to work in this field, c) the awareness regarding the autonomous nature of the SFO and its juridical status in the Church, are some of the important elements of growth and development of the SFO.
In 1999, the Conference of the Spiritual Assistants of all the four Obediences was formed and this Conference, which meets occasionally, evaluates and animates SFO in various levels. There is a steady growth and development for SFO in India. Moreover, we Conventual Franciscans play an important role. As per the norms of the National Statutes and the Directions of the National Council, for a better functioning, the units under our pastoral care are divided in the National Chapter held at Assisi Shanthi Kendra, Karukutty on 23 January 2005. Accordingly, there are three regions; Kanjirappally region, Kolbe region, Assisi region and a fraternity, which is attached to Franciscan Ashram, Nattakkal under our pastoral care.