Elections in SJSR

The view from the escarpment at La Verna in Italy, very near the site where St Francis received the stigmata.

Intro - Elections in the OFS

On various levels, each fraternity is animated and guided by a council and minister. These offices are conferred through elections, in accordance with the Rule, the Constitutions, and particular Statutes.

The office of minister or councilor is a fraternal service, a commitment to hold oneself available and responsible in relation to each brother and sister and to the fraternity so that each one will realize his or her own vocation and each fraternity will be a true community, ecclesial and Franciscan, actively present in the Church and in society.

The spirit of anyone who is elected to office is one of being a servant after the model Christ used at the Last Supper i.e. washing the feet of his disciples. Jesus did not lose his authority nor his power to lead. Rather he gave a model of how to lead by being a servant. For Franciscans it means that the power or authority that officers possess is used for the common good.

The General Constitutions of the Secular Francsican Order make provisions for fraternity elections every three years. What follows are resources which will help the regional and local fraternity councils prepare and hold these periodic elections.

Council Position Descriptions

Following are brief descriptions of each position on the council of a fraternity in the Secular Franciscan Order. These descriptions are taken from the General Constitutions. Note: some fraternities also elect councilors at large or councilors with other specific duties. If elected (and not appointed), these additional councilors are voting members of the council.

These descriptions can be downloaded - click here.


While firmly upholding the co-responsibility of the council to animate and guide the fraternity, the minister, as the primary person responsible for the fraternity, is expected to make sure that the directions and the decisions of the council are put into practice and will keep the council informed about what he or she is doing.

The minister also has the following duties:

  • to call, to preside at, and to direct the meetings of the fraternity and council; to convoke every three years the elective chapter of the fraternity, having heard the council on the formalities of the convocation.

  • to prepare the annual report to be sent to the council of the higher level after it has been approved by the council of the fraternity.

  • to represent the fraternity in all its relations with ecclesiastical and civil authorities. When the fraternity acquires a juridical personality in the civil order, the minister becomes, when possible, its legal representative.

  • to request, with the consent of the council, the pastoral and fraternal visits, at least once every three years.

  • to put into effect those acts which the Constitutions refer to his or her competence.

Vice Minister

The vice minister has the following duties:

  • to collaborate in a fraternal spirit and to support the minister in carrying out his or her specific duties.

  • to exercise the functions entrusted by the council and/or by the assembly or chapter.

  • to take the place of the minister in both duties and responsibilities in case of absence or temporary impediment.

  • to assume the functions of the minister when the office remains vacant.


The secretary has the following duties:

  • to compile the official acts of the fraternity and of the council and to assure that they are sent to their respective proper recipients.

  • to see to the updating and preservation of the records and the registers, noting admissions, professions, deaths, withdrawals, and transfers from the fraternity.

  • to provide for the communication of the more important facts to the various levels and, if appropriate, to provide for their dissemination through the mass media.


The master of formation has the following duties:

  • to co-ordinate, with the help of the other members of the council, the formative activities of the fraternity.

  • to instruct and enliven the inquirers during the time of initiation, the candidates during the period of initiation formation, and the newly professed.

  • to inform the council of the fraternity prior to profession, concerning the suitability of the candidate for a commitment to live according to the Rule.


The treasurer, or bursar, has the following duties:

  • to guard diligently the contributions received, recording each receipt in the appropriate register, with the date on which it was given, the name of the contributor, or the one from whom it was collected.

  • to record in the same register the items of expense, specifying the date and the purpose, in conformity with the directions of the fraternity council;

  • to render an account of his or her administration to the assembly and to the council of the fraternity according to the norms of the national statutes.

The Elections Process

The fraternity is encouraged to begin preparing for elections at least 2 months in advance. In addition to providing time for the discernment of calls to serve on council, the current council should take up the status of potential voting members well before the date of the election so that that there is a clear understanding of the necessary quorum of active members. Changes to member status, e.g., to excuse those members where it is appropriate, should be undertaken no later than one full month before the election date.

Preparations for the elections are the joint work of the presider, who is typically a member of the regional council, the fraternity minister, and the current fraternity council. A checklist is provided following, which may also be downloaded - click here.

At Least 2 months Prior to the Election

  • Confirm date & contact info

  • Council designates members as excused as needed

  • Share roster of active members (no excused)

  • Assess eligibility, quorum requirements

  • Report / resolve “thin slate” issues if any

At least 1 month Prior to the Election

  • Formal announcement (“convocation”) and readiness check

  • Send initial slate of nominees to Presider

  • Re-confirm date, time and location with all

1 Week Prior to the Election

  • Ensure all election forms are printed & in hand

  • Confirm all supplies ready – paper ballots, pens etc.

  • Re-confirm date, time and location with all

  • Tellers, secretary recruited (non-professed if possible)

Site Preparation

  • Appropriate space for the election: seating for 5 (Presider, Ecclesial Witness, Secretary and two Tellers)

  • Flip chart / board visible by the full Fraternity, markers

  • Ballot distribution and collection baskets

Day of the Election – before beginning:

  • Confirm the presence of the Ecclesial Witness and Presider

  • Adequate supply of blank ballots & pens

  • Finalize room set up

  • Script, ritual pamphlets, and procedure / eligibility material

Elections in the OFS are conducted by a presider - the regional minister or their delegate - in the presence of an Ecclesial Witness - a regional spiritual assistant or their delegate. A downloadable script for the provider is included in the materials below. Details on Elections from the General Constitutions are also available below.

Well before the election, it is important to review the quorum requirements and also the specifics on eligibility to be elected, including term limits. Action by the fraternity council may be appropriate to ensure that a quorum of active members is available for a valid election.

Notes on Quorum and Election Requirements

A downloadable version of this material is available below.

Definition of Quorum

“The presence of more than half of the number of those having the right to vote is required for the valid celebration of an elective chapter.” (General Constitutions Article 77.4)

“The Quorum consists of a majority of active members who are not excused from attendance.” (NAFRA Statutes 18.6)

This means a quorum is 1 more than half of the active professed members (whether present at the election or not). Members formally excused from attending Fraternity gatherings by the Fraternity Council are not counted as “active professed members” for purposes of establishing a quorum.

Election Requirements

“An absolute majority of the votes of those present, cast in secret, is required for the election of the minister. (General Constitutions Article 78.1)

  • If the first ballot is inconclusive, a second ballot is taken.

  • If the second ballot is inconclusive, the two candidates with the most votes are carried over to the third ballot. If there is a three-way tie on the second ballot, the two oldest by profession are carried over to the third ballot. (General Constitutions 78.1 and 78.2)

  • If the third ballot is inconclusive (i.e., there is a tie), the oldest by profession is considered elected.

“The election of the vice-minister proceeds in the same manner.” (General Constitutions Article 78.2)

National Statutes Article 14.4 imposes the same balloting requirements for national councilor positions as for minister and vice-minister, and these are adopted for local and regional councilor positions as well.

For a third term for any office, a two-thirds vote is required on the first ballot for election.

Other Notes

The spiritual assistant is by right a voting member of the council and of the chapter of the fraternity to which he or she gives assistance and collaborates with it in all activities. Only in economic matters and in elections at any level does he or she not enjoy the right to vote. (Statutes for Spiritual and Pastoral Assistance to the Secular Franciscan Order Article 12.3)

The term “Councilors” in the General Constitutions refers to any of the offices other than Minister and Vice Minister. The offices of Secretary, Treasurer, Councilor at Large and Formation Director are all considered “Councilors”.

“Absolute Majority” means 1 more than half of the voting members present for the election.

Notes on Eligibility and Term Limits

A downloadable version of this material is available below.

Those Eligible for Nomination/Election for Fraternity Council

  • Permanently professed active members of the Fraternity are eligible to be nominated and elected to the Fraternity Council. (General Constitutions).

  • An outgoing Minister cannot be nominated/elected Vice Minister. (General Constitutions Article 79.2)

  • Although licit, it is not advisable to consider members of the Fraternity who have been professed for less than one year for election to the Fraternity Council.

  • Members of the Regional Executive Council are eligible for nomination/election to local Fraternity office. (See National Statute Article 28).

  • Although the National Statutes (Article 28) allow for an outgoing Minister to serve in a councilor position (i.e., Formation Director, Secretary, Treasurer or Councilor at Large), it is recommended that the outgoing Minister not be a member of the new Council, unless there is a critical need for candidates for those positions.

Term Limits

  • The minister, vice-minister and council members may be elected for two consecutive terms of three years each. A third (and final) term is allowed, but voting requirements for a third term are stricter than those for a first or second term (See General Constitutions Article 79.1 and National Statutes Article 13.2)

  • In the spirit of General Constitutions Article 32, current Fraternity Council members should only be considered for a third term in exceptional circumstances.

  • Term limits for Minister, Vice Minister, and Councilor positions are considered independently. For example, if a 2nd term Vice Minister is elected Minister or Treasurer, they would be considered as 1st term in those offices.

  • The intent of National Statutes Article 13.2 is to apply term limits to Councilor positions as a group (Secretary, Treasurer, Formation Director and Councilors at large). In other words, a member having served three terms in any combination of these positions would not be eligible to be elected for another term. (In the case of smaller fraternities, the presider may apply term limits to specific offices only with permission of the Regional Executive Council.)

Downloadable Election Resources

Everything needed to plan and conduct robust elections are included following. Included are:

  • Timeline and Checklist

  • Notes on Quorum and Election Requirements

  • Notes on Eligibility and Term Limits


  • Slate of Nominees (complete before the election)

  • Ballot and Vote Count (complete during the election)

  • Secretary Announcement (complete during the election)

  • Report of Election (complete immediately after the election)

These forms are primarily for fraternity records. A copy of the fully signed Report of Election should be given to the presider before the event concludes.

Other materials

  • Excerpt from General Constitutions on the Fraternity Council

  • Excerpt from General Constitutions on Elections in the OFS

  • Presider's Script

SJSR Elections 2021 Notes Quorum+.pdf

Elections Checklist

SJSR Elections 2021 Checklist.pdf

Quorum & Requirements

SJSR Elections 2021 Notes Eligibility+.pdf

Eligibility and Term Limits

SJSR Elections 2021 Form Slate.pdf
SJSR Elections 2021 Form Vote Count.pdf
SJSR Elections 2021 Form Secty List.pdf
SJSR Elections 2021 Form Report.pdf
SJSR Elections 2021 Council GC.pdf

Council Description - General Constitutions

SJSR Elections 2021 Elections GC.pdf

Elections Description - General Constitutions

Presider's Script - for REC use