What is a "Guardian"?

This question was asked by a 15-year-old reader when he learned that a friar known to him had been appointed a Guardian.

As you know, we are Franciscan Friars, that is members of the Order founded by St Francis of Assisi 800 years ago, the “Order of Friars Minor”.  We live in communities, usually in the poorer parts of cities among the people.  Each local community has at its head one of the friars appointed to be “Guardian”.  St Francis wanted to live according to the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said “let him who is first among you be the servant of the others”.  So St Francis did not want to use words like “Prior” (which means “First”) or "Superior" (which means "Higher") as is common among monks.  He used words like “Guardian” (one who cares for and looks after another) or “Minister” (one who serves another).  The word “Minister” has passed into political life in the form of “Ministers of the Crown”, to show that as a Christian country all forms of authority are a call to public service. So our Franciscan Constitutions and Statutes speak about Ministers and Guardians being called "to seek to build up the fraternity as a family united in Christ in which God is sought above all things.  In their practice of virtue and in their observance of the laws and traditions of the Order, they are to be an example to the friars."  Quite a challenge, you will agree!