Monastery opens for residents

Maria Brachelli

Construction efforts to complete the monastery’s renovation should be finished this spring, but the Augustinians began to move back to the monastery in mid-January.

“All of the Augustinians do seem pleased to be back and are being patient with the last-minute adjustments,” Rev. John McAtee, O.S.A., said.

“The fact that the dining room and the chapel and the recreation area are close to each other is a very large improvement over the old monastery where the three areas were widely separated. The brightness of the new building is also something which we all appreciate. We are glad to be home.”

Though there was no specific deadline set for the friars to move back, approximately 57 Augustinians have already taken residence in the newly renovated facility this month. At this time, the monastery is near full capacity.

Though the renovations are not completed, the monastery is fully functional for the residents. The new floor plan creates a more accessible living space for aging and infirm Augustinians.

“One of the primary goals of the renovation was to keep friars living with friars for as long as possible,” said Mike Dolan, director of communications for the Augustinians. To this end, the second floor was designed to accommodate elderly friars. The residential second floor also houses a doctor’s office and a nurses’ station.

Another element of the new renovations that is most evident to those on campus is the new chapel. Facing outward to the University community toward Mendel Field, the glass-walled building is actually a chapel. It serves as a visual representation and reminder that the University community is a spiritual community.

The chapel is also significant in that it “gives the Villanova community awareness of a prayerful way of life,” Dolan said. The students can look in on Augustinians practicing these values daily.

“Once the friars are settled in their new home, the Villanova community will be welcome to join the friars in prayer in the new chapel,” Dolan said.

Still to be completed are the Way of Life Center, to be located on the bottom floor of the monastery and a Heritage room, on the first floor.

The Way of Life Center will serve as a resource room for students and the community to find information about the life and way of Augustinians.

The Heritage room will house sources specific to the history of the University and the tradition of the Augustinians.

As to the delay in completion of the renovations, Dolan said, “There have been a number of things that weren’t anticipated, and they came to light during the renovation and caused its delay.”

For example, “The entire kitchen floor had to be replaced, but it wasn’t until the renovations were started that that even became an issue.”

While the monastery was uninhabitable, the Augustinians relocated to various locations in the region. They primarily stayed at St. Joseph’s Friary, associated with Monsignor Bonner High School, and the St. Augustine Friary, of the Villanova community, and others stayed at area parishes.