Augustinians of Villanova: Father Rob Hagan


Courtesy of Sam Hodgson / The New York Times

Rev. Rob Hagan, pictured here in 2015, serves as the Team Chaplain for Villanova’s men’s basketball and football programs.

Olivia Sabalaskey, Staff Writer

“As an Augustinian, I take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience,” said Rev. Rob Hagan, O.S.A. “I don’t have any kids. In a lot of ways, I feel that these students are my kids. I love to celebrate the high moments, but I am there with them in the low moments as well.”

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

Given that Fr. Rob grew up a devout Catholic, he was drawn to Villanova’s Augustinian values. He chose to attend Villanova as an undergraduate, and he met many Augustinians like Rev. Bill Atkinson, O.S.A., the first quadriplegic Augustinian priest in the Catholic Church, who is now being considered for canonization.

“I was so inspired by Fr. Bill,” Fr. Rob said. “He had so many reasons to complain, but he chose to live with joy every day.”

After graduating from Villanova with a B.A. in English, Fr. Rob pursued his passion for law by earning a J.D. from Widener University. He then spent seven years as Criminal Defense Counsel. One night, Fr. Rob returned home from a successful day of work and watched “Jeopardy!” One of the contestants chose the category Quotable Quotes, and Alex Trebek revealed one of St. Augustine’s quotes. Immediately, Fr. Rob knew that God was calling him, so he told the law firm that he was going to work for God. 

Six years later, he was ordained an Augustinian priest, and Rev. Edmund Dobbin, O.S.A., placed him in Athletics Compliance at Villanova given his experience in law and administration.

As the Senior Associate Athletic Director, Fr. Rob works in Student-Athlete Welfare. He oversees the Sports Medicine and Strength & Conditioning departments, and he serves as an administrator for DEI and the UNITAS initiative to help student athletes who may feel marginalized on campus. 

Fr. Rob presides at Mass on Campus, and he serves as the Team Chaplain for Villanova’s men’s basketball and football programs.

“I introduce them to St. Augustine, who was a sinner before a saint,” Fr. Rob said. “He tried a lot of things that we all have tried: power, ambition, success and money. But what Augustine came to realize is what most of us come to realize: none of it satisfies us the way we think it would. Sometimes chasing all of those things is like drinking salt water. The more you drink it, the thirstier it makes you.”

Fr. Rob affirms that nothing else will properly fill the hole in one’s heart other than a strong connection with God.

“A calling can be a subtle whisper in your heart,” Fr. Rob said. “Like the wind, it tends to blow you in a certain direction. I don’t believe in coincidences. I think God’s Divine Providence is behind everything.”

Fr. Rob never takes his job for granted, and he ensures that in all of the athletic decisions in which he participates, the Villanova-Augustinian mission is at the forefront. For example, Fr. Rob works closely with Mark Jackson, the Vice President and Director of Athletics, in fundraising, communications, and management of athletic facilities. 

“When we hire coaches and staff, we make sure that they aren’t just people that can help win games, but people who will be ambassadors for Villanova and represent what we think is important to represent,” Fr. Rob said.

Given the staggering amount of pressure that student athletes face, Fr. Rob counsels them by listening, lending a helping hand and voicing comfort.

“I try not to be another teacher or coach giving them an assignment, but someone who can help listen to their inner voice, encouraging them amidst the noise,” he said. “I’ve been with teams that have had incredible success, who have won national championships. I’ve also been with teams that haven’t won, but are no less successful in terms of their dedication, commitment, and scholarship.”

Coach Jay Wright of the men’s basketball team attested to Fr. Rob’s invaluable service to the team in an interview published in Volume VI of The Augustinian.

“I think every player and every member of our staff will tell you Fr. Rob is one of the greatest men any of us have in our lives,” Wright said. “He has been an integral part of the program and also of my life. I count on him as a dear friend. Our whole team and staff attend a prayer service before every game. It starts with Fr. Rob doing a reading from the Bible, and then he does a homily. He’s never talking about the game. He’s talking about life. And what kind of men we are and what kind of Christians we are. I always joke with Fr. Rob, ‘Don’t make us cry before the game.’”

Since Villanova is renowned for its many sports, competition is a hot topic. However, Fr. Rob explains the difference between cutthroat competition and a passion for competition. 

“Each of us strengthens all of us,” Fr. Rob said. “Whether you are a player scoring all of the points, or you are a manager who does the laundry, everybody has the same value. It is never just about the sport. When you have a team that lives those higher values, you don’t have to be overly concerned about the score or who’s playing the most minutes. That stuff takes care of itself.”

Fr. Rob is grateful to be able to participate in the Villanova community that instills a strong desire to serve others.

“To come on a Friday or Saturday in May to watch all of our kids graduate gives me such a sense of pride and joy in my life,” Fr. Rob said.

Fr. Rob fondly remembers the moment that Randy Foye, former Villanova basketball player who graduated in 2006, called him to catch up and asked Fr. Rob to marry Foye and his fiancé, now wife. 

When asked about a favorite memory, Fr. Rob reminisced about the moments a player would come into his office to vent after a trying game. He treasures the strong trust he has built with the student athletes.

Always ready to contribute more, Fr. Rob was recently elected to serve as the Prior Provincial of the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova for a four-year term starting this June. 

“I look forward to the opportunity to walk with my brothers in this role as we try to discern how best to serve God’s people,” Fr. Rob said.