Goin’ to the Chapel

Annie Salamone

I think it would be safe to say that all Villanovans at one time or another catch themselves thinking about love, be them past, present or future pursuits. Passing by the St. Thomas of Villanova Church can no doubt spark such feelings, leading students and parishioners to dream of having a wedding within the church’s smooth stone walls and high, awe-inspiring ceilings. Undergraduates, many of whom have spent their collegiate years involved in liturgies as well as many other campus ministry activities, slowly build a special connection with the church. As a result, many steps have been taken to welcome alumni marriages in the church. The parish, in conjunction with the standards set forth by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, has since established rules under which alumni can be wed. The significance of these rules is grounded in the church’s, as well as the entire Catholic faith’s belief that weddings are a joining of two souls within the faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that “Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for each other.” With that in mind, weddings become more than a ceremony, but rather “an unbreakable union of … two lives.” Because St. Thomas of Villanova is the main church of its parish, it is the place to celebrate the sacraments. The Archdiocese of Philadelphia does not generally allow weddings in college or university church, but St. Thomas of Villanova is a parish church and can therefore celebrate sacraments, including marriage. One of the most important actions a couple must take is participation in Pre-Cana, a program led by married couples who discuss important issues commonly found in marriage, including communication, spirituality, sexuality and finance. The program got its title from the Wedding at Cana, the New Testament story in which Jesus performed his first miracle at the request of his mother.

The church restricts eligibility to Villanova graduates who have spent their undergraduate years at the University and therefore have had opportunities for significant spiritual growth.

There is, in fact, no waiting list for marriages within the parish. The tale of first-year students placing their names on a four-year waiting list, although often told, is nonetheless false. There was a time, however, when couples camped outside the registration office the night before the wedding calendar was opened in order to get the date they wanted.  The parish discontinued the practice many years ago. St. Thomas of Villanova requires that a wedding be booked at least six months in advance, thus allotting time for couples to spiritually and emotionally prepare for marriage. Moreover, a date cannot be booked more than 18 months ahead of time, leaving a four-year waiting list impossible.

Most couples get a date at least a year ahead of time so that they can have enough time to coordinate the church, priest and reception.

Last year alone, 75 alumni weddings took place, with 34 of them being marriages between two Villanova alumni. That means that more than 45 percent of the wedded couples most likely met each other while still in school. Villanova doesn’t guarantee a mate, but hey, you never know.