Governance for Premonstratensians has to be understood both locally and globally. By locally, we understand governance within individual abbeys and independent priories. These are relatively autonomous. On a day to day basis, the governance rests with the Abbot or Prior de Regimine (Prior of an independent house) and his Council. Councils must maintain parity between elected members and those who, because of their expertise, are appointed by the Abbot/Prior De Regimine. Frequently, appointed members include the Prior who is the Abbot’s Vicar, and the Treasurer. The elected members are chosen by all the solemnly professed members of a canonry gathered in Chapter and these are termed offices. Chapters, (i.e., meetings of the solemnly professed membership) occur at least once a year and may occur more often.
An Abbot is elected at a canonry chapter. The first order of business at a Chapter of Election; is to determine the term of office which can range from a minimum of six years to life, with an age at which the Prelate must submit his resignation. Then the Chapter proceeds to elect an Abbot. Generally, the Abbot General or his appointees preside at these elections.
Globally, there is an Abbot General, elected for life at a General Chapter after the death or resignation of the former Abbot General. He can and does intervene in the affairs of a local abbey when there is a crisis. He may, for instance, appoint an Administrator of a community if there is a crisis of leadership in an individual abbey or independent priory. He, too, has a Council of four, called Definitors, who are elected at ordinary General Chapterare ranked by the order in which they were chosen. The First Definitor is the first elected by the General Chapter, the Second Definitor is the second elected, and so forth. The only significant aspect of the number has to do with the First Definitor who assumes the authority of the Abbot General should he be become incapacitated or resign between General Chapters.
General chapters are ordinarily held once every six years, but may be convened as often as the Order Definitory deems it necessary. Ordinarily, General Chapters are preceded by a visitation of all the houses of the Order. Two Premonstratensians are chosen by the Abbot General and his Definitors to visit a particular canonry and all its dependent houses. A visitation report is written and submitted to the Canonry visited with copies to the Abbot General and the Definitors.