[quote="Inquiringperson, post:6, topic:264014"]
What powers do Father Superiors have? From what I have heard, religious communities only answer to the Holy See.
There are three levels. There are superiors of local houses. These are often referred as the local superior, though they may be called Father, even if they are not priests. They govern the house in which they live according to the rule and constitutions.
If a religious community is large as are Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, Salesians, Christian Brothers, etc, they are divided into regions, often called Provinces. These Father Superiors have the same authority as a bishop. They make assignments. They decide how money is spent. They manage all of the assets of the houses under them. Only they can give permission for a man to make vows and for a man to be ordained. Christ speaks through them. They make contracts in the name of the community. These may be contracts with the local bishop to run certain ministries for him or contracts with other order or institutions. They can open and suppress houses and institutions belonging to their religious community. They decide the formation program and the govern the life of prayer of the community. Everyone answers to them, either directly or through the local superior. They are elected by an electoral chapter at which all local superiors vote, the council votes and each house gets to send a delegate.
Note: Among the Jesuits, the provincial Father Superior is not elected. He is appointed by the Superior General. Only the Superior General is elected.
The Superior General is also Father Superior. He governs the entire religious community. If a community is small, it may not have a Provincial Father Superior. It will only have a General Father Superior. These superiors have many titles, depending on the order. In some orders they are called Prior, Ministers, Servants, Superiors, Abbots, but they all mean the same thing. They are the bosses.
The General Superior of any order is the successor of the founder. His voice is the final voice for the members of the order. He governs according to the constitutions of the order and according to the mind of the founder. In some communities, such as the Jesuits and Dominicans, the founders did not write a rule for their orders. They did not leave their sons a rule of life. They gave them statutes or constitutions, which they change and modify according to the needs of the time. These men are the liaison with the Holy See. They answer to those whom they govern and to the pope.
Every community is legally bound to have a general chapter every so many years. At that chapter, the religious send delegates who vote on different issues. At that chapter, the Father General must give a report to the delegates on the state of the order and what he has done. They have a right to ask questions and make suggestions.. If they don't like what he does, they can elect a new Father General.
However, the chapter cannot command the Father General to do anything that is outside of its competence. In other words, the Father General has certain rights that he can exercise even if the entire community is opposed to it. Once he speaks, Christ has spoken and everyone must obey. But this power is limited to those things that the rule, constitutions, Canon Law, and tradition grant to the Father General or whatever title he may use. I believe that the Dominicans call him the Master General. Benedictines call him abbot, Carmelites call him Prior General, Franciscans call him Minister General or General Servant. Each of these titles are to remind the Father Superior of his mission to his brothers.
[quote="TiggerS, post:8, topic:264014"]
I am on unsure ground here, so I hope Brother JR will come in again. As I understand things a charism is a special gift to the founder as with St. Francis of Assisi and The Fransicans it was poverty and a quite radical following of The Gospel. For St. Teresa of Avila and the Carmelites, it was or is a life of prayer. Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her sisters it was or is care for the suffering and dying.
It needs to be noted that religious life is always a radical following of The Gospel - just how radical is spelt out by the founder.
One follows the founder's charism by following that special gift of The Holy Spirit. This is a gift to the Universal Church. As we, as member of The Mystical Body of Christ, share in each others failings, so we share in each other's virtues and those special gifts or charism to founders.
Brother JR - where are you!
I'm right here. You have it right. The charism is the vision and mission that the Holy Spirit gives to the founder. His sons and daughters make it their own and hand it down from generation to generation.
In the case of the Franciscans, the vision that Christ gave to Francis was to imitate Christ's obedience. The external expression of Christ's obedience is Christ's poverty He gives up everything for the love of the Father. The mission that Christ gave to Francis was to preach. However, Francis observed how Christ preached. He observed that Christ preached through his presence, his charity, mercy, teaching, brotherhood, and through his suffering on the cross. Francis sends his sons into the world to preach in this manner.
Some are priests and preach from the pulpit. Most are not priests. However, we preach in retreats, classrooms, religious education, spiritual direction and lectures. Others preach through their charity, caring for the poor. Many Franciscans preach simply by presences. They live in a neighborhood without a specific apostolate. They're just there for the people to see how the Christian life is lived in brotherhood.
As you can see, a charism has a vision of the Gospel and a mission in the Church.
Br. JR, OSF :christmastree1: