Augustinians of Villanova: Father Francis Caponi


Courtesy of Fr. Francis Caponi, O.S.A., Th.D.

Father Francis says Mass at 5:30 p.m. in Corr Chapel one weekday a week.

Olivia Sabalaskey, Staff Writer

“I grew up in the Philadelphia area,” Father Francis Caponi, O.S.A., said. “It’s so nice to be back, close to my family, especially as my nieces and nephews grow up.”

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

Like many other Augustinian priests at Villanova, Fr. Francis attended Monsignor Bonner, an all-male Catholic high school and was taught by Augustinians. During his four years at Monsignor Bonner, Fr. Francis was deeply inspired by his Augustinian teachers. In fact, Fr. Francis thought about becoming an Augustinian priest, particularly during his senior year. Although he enjoyed his high school experience and gained substantial insight into the Order of Saint Augustine, Fr. Francis was eager to step out of his comfort zone. 

“By the time I graduated, I wanted to get as far away from the Augustinians as I could,” he said. “Monsignor Bonner was enough for me then. So, naturally, I wound up coming to Villanova, an Augustinian Catholic school. It probably wasn’t the best idea.”

During his undergraduate years at Villanova, Fr. Francis commuted to campus. Although he never got to experience living in a typical dorm setting, about 20 other Monsignor Bonner graduates also commuted to campus. Unlike today, in the early 1980s, almost half of Villanova undergraduates commuted.

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from Villanova in 1983, Fr. Francis continued his education, obtaining a master’s degree from the Washington Theological Union in 1989 and a doctorate from Harvard University/School of Divinity in 2000. After much deliberation, Fr. Francis pursued his calling from God and was ordained an Augustinian priest.

“During my first 15 years as an Augustinian priest, I served in a parish in upstate New York, right at the border with Vermont,” Fr. Francis said. “I also taught in Washington D.C. at the seminary for seven years.” 

In 2005, Fr. Francis returned to Villanova, answering the Augustinian call to serve others and teach undergraduate students. More specifically, Fr. Francis taught the Augustine and Culture Seminar, commonly referred to as ACS, as well as Faith, Reason and Culture, the introductory Theology course. Both classes are typically taken during an undergraduate’s freshman year and they are meant to introduce new Villanovans to Augustinian academia, the Catholic faith and Villanova’s campus.

“I currently live in Caughlin Hall on South Campus,” Fr. Francis said. “It’s typically referred to as the Honors dorm, Although previously I just taught ACS and Theology courses to freshmen, I now work with the Honors Program.”

Not only is Fr. Francis an Associate Professor for ACS, Theology & Religious Studies and the Honors Program, but he also serves as the Honors Chaplain in Caughlin. Caughlin residents are able to receive both spiritual and academic guidance from Fr. Francis during their freshman year, and he frequently offers the sacrament of Confession as well. 

Like many Villanovans, Fr. Francis is very involved in student organizations on Campus.

“There are a number of groups I work with,” Fr. Francis said. “I’m very involved with the Knights of Columbus. I serve as an advisor, helping them with spiritual direction and scripture study on Tuesdays.”

Fr. Francis celebrates a weekday Mass often at 5:30 p.m. in Corr Chapel. All are welcome to attend.