Structure of the Order
The Order of St. Cyprian of Antioch, which is ruled by a general chapter and the Prior General of the Order, is made up of provinces, each of which is governed by a provincial chapter and the prior provincial. Each province is made up of individual locations, which are governed by a prior.
From this structure, one can see that the Order is both universal and a communion. Thus, the Order draws strength from a robust unity centered on the Prior General of the Order, its head, with whom all brothers and sisters are directly linked by profession. The communitarian character of the Order is seen in the levels of shared government.
The Cyprianite Approach to Democracy
Fundamental to the life of the members is that we gather in Chapter [essentially, in meetings], whether conventual, provincial, or general, to make decisions about our life and mission. These decisions are said to be made in a democratic process because the brothers and sisters in Chapter engage in debate leading to voting.
What is Cyprianite about this kind of democracy is that it is primarily concerned with the needs of the Order, rather than the will of the majority: our democracy is only Cyprianite if our debating and voting is an attempt to understand and live the Charism of the Order.
Together with the Prior General of the Order, the General Chapter is the highest level of authority in the Order.
Every three years, certain elected members meet in General Chapter to consider the mission of the whole Order. There is a sequence of General Chapters, each consisting of groups of elected members: the General Chapter of delegates, then the General Chapter of Priors Provincial, then the Elective General Chapter. So, every third General Chapter is ‘elective,’ that is, elected delegates from the various communities around the world gather to elect a new Prior General as successor to St. Cyprian, who thus sits for nine years. This seemingly complex sequence of General Chapters is a recognition of the fact that for us authority is granted to all the members and that it is multi-faceted.
Every four years, elected delegates from the locations of a province meet with the priors or superiors of the province to discuss and to make decisions about all that pertains to the fraternal and apostolic life and the good administration of the province. The Provincial Chapter also elects major office-holders for the province, including the Prior Provincial and delegates to the General Chapters.
The Prior Provincial also holds a term-limited position, and is the major superior and the proper ordinary of the brothers and sisters, and in his or her province they have power corresponding to that which the Prior General of the Order has in the whole Order. They govern the province together with the Provincial Council, which is comprised of elected members and officials of the province.
Within the priory, the conventual chapter is a gathering of the brothers and sisters, with the Prior presiding, to discuss or come to a decision about matters concerning the common and apostolic life of the locality and with its good administration. This Chapter is ordinarily comprised of brothers and sisters who are solemnly professed and who have active voice, and they vote on such matters as the admission of members to profession, delegates to the Provincial Chapter, and of course, they elect the Prior of the community.
The Prior is elected for a specific term and is assisted in the government of the priory by a Conventual Council, which is comprised of members elected by the Conventual Chapter. Mindful of the wider mission of the Order, the Prior is the servant of the common good as well as the guardian of the religious and apostolic life of the community.