Augustinians of Villanova: Father Joe Calderone


Courtesy of Villanova University

Fr. Joe Calderone serves as the Associate Director of Campus Ministry.

Olivia Sabalaskey, Staff Writer

“Everything we have is a gift from God,” said Rev. Joe Calderone, O.S.A. “We have a responsibility to use these gifts to help one another.”

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

Fr. Joe attended Monsignor Bonner Catholic High School where he looked up to his Augustinian teachers, feeling as though they were a part of his large family, like older brothers. They inspired Fr. Joe to pursue the Augustinian way of life full of travel and a devotion to God.

“In school, I loved geography because I could study different parts of the world,” Fr. Joe said. “I’d imagine what it would be like to go to these distant lands. The Augustinians who taught us got to travel to some of these amazing places.”

After high school, Fr. Joe entered the Novitiate, a year-long process where he and other Augustinian Candidates learned about the order’s history and prayed together to discern their vocation. At the end of the year, Fr. Joe took a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. His faith in God then brought him to Villanova as an undergraduate. 

“I was so impressed by the Campus Ministers here at Villanova,” Fr. Joe said. “When I was younger, I had always wanted to go into a profession to help people. The Augustinians at Villanova did just that.”

In 1971, Fr. Joe graduated from Villanova. He pursued a graduate degree in Theology in Washington D.C. In between semesters, he returned to Villanova to receive a master’s degree in Counseling. 

After years of hard work, Fr. Joe was ordained into the priesthood as an Augustinian in 1974. Given his love for travel, Fr. Joe journeyed to many different parts of the world. 

First, Fr. Joe traveled to Merrimack College in Massachusetts where he served as the Campus Minister for five years. He then helped oversee the graduate studies program in Higher Education Administration at Northeastern University for another five years. 

Fr. Joe often reminisces about his experience as the Campus Ministry Director for the Diocese of Orlando, Florida in which he supervised six college campus ministries in the Orlando area. 

As if Fr. Joe was not busy enough, he also joined the U.S. Navy Reserve to further cultivate his passion for helping others. Fr. Joe served in dozens of places around the world.

“I traveled to Tokyo for three and a half weeks,” Fr. Joe said. “I also went to Glasgow, Scotland. I worked part-time in the Navy for 21 years, and it was a wonderful experience.” 

Given Fr. Joe’s devotion to God and helping others, he was then sent to return to D.C. where he studied for his CPE certification, or Clinical Pastoral Education, for Training in Compassionate Presence as a Chaplain. In D.C., Fr. Joe worked at a hospital and helped those deemed criminally insane (i.e., those with a mental defect that prohibits them to understand that their criminal actions were wrong) and others who dealt with mental health diseases like schizophrenia. 

“I worked with many people who suffered mental illnesses,” Fr. Joe said. “One of the patients on my floor was John Hinckley Jr., the man who shot President Ronald Reagan.”

Upon receiving his CPE certification, Fr. Joe was sent to work at a Navy hospital in Bethesda, Maryland as a Civilian Chaplain given his in-depth knowledge of, and experience with, the Navy Reserve. But Fr. Joe’s passion for helping others in the medical area did not stop there. 

Next, Fr. Joe traveled to Loyola University Medical Center. For about eight years, he served as medical students’ spiritual guide. He also participated in the Chaplain Mentor Program to help train future chaplains in the medical area.

In 2003, Fr. Joe returned to Villanova to work in Campus Ministry as the Associate Director. He continues to help organize everything related to the Liturgy. However, his primary work involves supervising Villanova’s Lay Ecclesial Ministry where young Villanovans study to receive a master’s degree in Theology and professionally serve the ministry.

“The world has become more secular,” Fr. Joe said. “Organized religion isn’t as popular as it used to be. If you want to be successful in the area of religion today, you need to go where the people aren’t. You can’t just expect them to come to Mass. Those in the Lay Ecclesial Ministry have a passion for reaching out to those who don’t and welcoming them in.”

Fr. Joe also serves as an advisor to Villanova’s OASIS and VU Pride organizations on campus. These two organizations help raise awareness and offer support to the LGBTQ+ community on campus. 

“Pope Francis encourages dioceses to participate in the Synod process, or to go out to the fringes and talk to the people who feel like they are in the minority,” Fr. Joe said. “Given my experience in the medical field and my work here on campus, I enjoy working with those on the fringes. I’ve learned a lot.” 

Lastly, Fr. Joe often helps Villanova’s NROTC, or the Naval Reserve Officers’ training Corps, by attending staff meetings, offering prayers at events and lending a helping hand to those who may struggle. 

“After 48 years as an Augustinian priest, I’ve learned that the mind, body and spirit make up a person,” Fr. Joe said. “When one of the components is weak or broken, the other two help restore it. Medical work is only 15%: the other 85% is the bedside manner. Patients need to build trust with you and have faith in you. Having that sensitivity helps heal people as much as, and if not more than, their treatment.” 

Fr. Joe feels blessed to have been called to help guide people during critical moments in their lives. Whether it’s a joyous event like a wedding, or a sorrowful event like the anointing of the sick, Fr. Joe continues to walk with God’s people in an effort to serve Him.