Augustinians of Villanova: Father David Cregan


Courtesy of Fr. Daniel Cregan

(Left to Right) Fr. David Cregan, O.S.A., Ph.D. with his mother, Evelyn, in Dublin, Ireland.

Olivia Sabalaskey, Staff Writer

“Even though most of us don’t think that we are worthy, the greatest thing that we can do is to offer ourselves, in all of our triumphs and in all of our tragedies, to God, and to let God mold us,” Father David Cregan, O.S.A., Ph.D. said.

This week, Fr. David offers Villanovans a glimpse into his life as an Augustinian at Villanova University in the Augustinians of Villanova Column.

Fr. David grew up in a devout, Roman Catholic and Irish family. Although his parents moved from Ireland to the Philadelphia area to raise a family, they returned to Ireland when Fr. David was just seven years old. He remembers his time in Ireland fondly, describing his primary school years as very formative.

Fr. David and his family later returned to the Philadelphia area. Fr. David attended Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School, an Augustinian Catholic high school located in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. During Fr. David’s Senior Year Retreat, he not only felt a strong connection to God but also a calling to join the Order of St. Augustine, commonly referred to as the Augustinians. Like many of his peers in his senior class, Fr. David chose to attend Villanova University as an undergraduate because of his interest in the Augustinian way of life and the encouragement he received from the Vocation Director at the time. 

Fr. David started his freshman year in the fall of 1985, and pursued a major in the Department of Theatre and Studio Art. 

During Fr. David’s undergraduate years at Villanova, he struggled in choosing between pursuing a professional career in theatre and joining the Augustinians. As recommended by Villanova’s Vocation Director at the time, Fr. David moved to New York after his graduation from Villanova to pursue a career in theatre, given that the Augustinians “would always be here,” the Vocation Director said.

Fr. David participated in three national tours, an Off-Broadway show and later worked at a repertory theater in St. Louis, Missouri in which he joined several fan favorite musicals including “Anything Goes,” “South Pacific” and “Gypsy.” However, the Roman Catholic faith remained an integral part of Fr. David’s life as he continued to attend Sunday mass and prayed often. 

During one Sunday Mass, Fr. David was shocked to see a familiar face: his high school religion teacher, an Augustinian. After the Augustinian offered Mass attendees information regarding the mission appeal, Fr. David chatted with him, reminiscing on his high school years and his love for Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School. 

“When I walked back home, I had a rare ‘aha’ moment in which I realized that I was supposed to become an Augustinian,” Fr. David said. “It didn’t take me completely by surprise, though, because I had been thinking about it since I was 17 years old.”

Fr. David then traveled back to New York given that he still had a few months left on his apartment’s lease. Upon his return to New York, Fr. David gave himself an ultimatum.

“It was time to make a choice,” Fr. David said. “I would stay in New York only if I got a part in a Broadway show, nothing else.” 

Although Fr. David auditioned for “Bye Bye Birdie” and received a callback, he did not get a part in the musical. Feeling at peace, Fr. David knew that it was time to return back to Philadelphia, his home. Upon his arrival, Fr. David spoke with Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., Ph.D., seeking guidance from the Vocation Director regarding his next steps in the process to become an Augustinian.

Fr. David then participated in two Master’s programs at the Washington Theological Union and the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. 

“After I completed both Master’s programs, Fr. Ed Dobbin and Fr. Peter suggested that I return to Ireland to pursue a Ph.D. in Irish Dramatic Literature and another Master’s in Irish Theatre and Film at Trinity College in Dublin,” Fr. David said. “It was so ironic that I was to return to Ireland because my family has been going back and forth between Ireland and Philadelphia for years.”

In 1999, Fr. David was ordained an Augustinian priest, and he thrived during his years in Dublin given that his extended family lived steps away from where he lived and studied. 

In 2004, Fr. David returned to Villanova and taught full-time in the Department of Theatre and Studio Art. 

It was in 2017 that the Provincial asked Fr. David to become a Novice Director, an integral part of the Formation process. 

“I took a three year leave of absence from Villanova and moved to Wisconsin,” Fr. David said. “In 2021, I returned to Villanova and heartily accepted the position of Associate Dean of Academic Affairs and Strategic Initiatives for the College of Professional Studies while also continuing to teach theatre to undergraduates.”

Fr. David finds his work in the College of Professional Studies to be a perfect fit for him, and he values its mission.

“It is a fantastic place to be because in the Villanova culture, there are a lot of people that need and want support,” Fr. David said. “In Professional Studies, we make it more affordable, help students with their debt, and support the children of our invaluable Villanova employees through the program Rise.”

When asked about his favorite part of being an Augustinian at Villanova University, Fr. David was surprised at how easy it was to answer the question.

“Nothing tops what it is like to be in the St. Thomas of Villanova Church on a Sunday night,” Fr. David said. “It is so peaceful, so rejuvenating. Being with all of the young students who are so dedicated to their Catholic faith is truly beautiful.”

Fr. David says Daily Mass often on Tuesday and Thursday nights at 5:30 p.m. in Corr Chapel. All are welcome to attend.