Monastery construction still far from completion

Daniel Trucil

For the past year and a half, the St. Thomas of Villanova monastery has been undergoing a very visible renovation.

“The main building has been gutted, the rooms have been rebuilt, and new heating and air conditioning systems are in place,” Robert Morro Jr., senior executive for facilities management, said. “We’ve also renovated one of the existing elevators and installed a new one for greater mobility.”

Despite this progress, however, much is yet to be completed. “We’re a little behind schedule, due in large part to unforeseen problems with the history of the building’s construction,” Morro said. “[The monastery] is an old building and it had to be rebuilt many times, mostly due to fire damage. Unfortunately, we don’t have many records of these blueprints, so every project is full of surprises.”

Despite minor setbacks, the monastery construction represents a landmark endeavor in the history of the North American Order of St. Augustine. “The architect designed the new buildings to be controversial,” Morro said. “The chapel, for example, is almost completely made of glass and is designed to create feelings of warmth and invitation.”

University students have responded favorably to the construction project. Ralph Alfano, a freshman engineer, said, “It can be a hassle and an eyesore at times, but I think it’ll add to the appeal of the campus overall. The monastery is important to the legacy of the school.”

First constructed in 1933, the Monastery replaced an older structure ravaged by fire in 1929. Today, in addition to serving as an academic building for Villanova University, this institution is home to many renowned Augustinian priests and brothers.

The capital campaign for the restoration of this religious landmark was inaugurated in 2002. Trammell-Crow Company directs the campaign along with a six-member Augustinian council overseen by Rev. William Donnelly, O.S.A.