Augustinians of Villanova: Father Joseph Loya


Courtesy of Fr. Joe Loya, O.S.A., Ph.D.

Fr. Joe Loya returned to Villanova in 1992 and is an integral part of Villanova.

Olivia Sabalaskey, Staff Writer

“I have been privileged to be involved with the Villanova Community as it has grown from a quality regional university into a teaching and researching institution of national rank and repute,” Father Joseph Loya, O.S.A., Ph.D., said. “This community not only exemplifies but also magnifies the core values of Unitas, Veritas and Caritas.” 

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

Despite roots in western Pennsylvania, Fr. Joe’s parents relocated to Cleveland, Ohio after his father secured a teaching position. The second of four children, Fr. Joe was baptized as an Eastern Byzantine Catholic, not as a Western Roman Catholic. As an Eastern Byzantine Catholic, Fr. Joe and his family profess the Bishop of Rome as the chief Shepherd of Christ’s Church while living an Eastern Orthodox Church life and spirituality. 

“Being non-Roman Catholic generates interesting and educational conversations with my brother Augustinians, colleagues and students,” Fr. Joe said. 

Fr. Joe’s religious vocation seems to run in the family, given that his brother, cousins and uncles were also called to the service of God. While his uncles were married Eastern Catholic priests, his cousins and brother served as clergymen. 

“It seems that the men in my family were primarily associated with service either in the ordained ministry or in the classroom,” Fr. Joe said. “I endeavored by the Grace of God to serve in both.”

After high school, Fr. Joe pursued his passion for physics at Cleveland State University’s College of Engineering. Having always felt called to community life, Fr. Joe then met with two different religious orders: the Franciscans in the Midwest and the Dominicans on the West Coast. He then returned to his Midwestern roots, hoping to learn more about the Augustinians.

“I met the Augustinians in Chicago,” Fr. Joe said. “They struck me as a group of guys that evenly balanced seriousness in academic studies, soul-enriching contemplation and the capacity to just kick back and relax together.”

In 1972, Fr. Joe entered the pre-novitiate program at Villanova to study philosophy, and then the novitiate a year later to begin his preparation for the solemn profession and priesthood. To earn an M.A. in theology, Fr. Joe studied at an Augustinian college in Washington D.C., the Washington Theological Coalition. Given his interest in serving as a priest in the Eastern Rite, Fr. Joe was ordained at Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Parish in South Philadelphia in 1979. He then returned to Villanova, this time as a teacher.

Although he enjoyed meeting with students and fellow faculty members, Fr. Joe soon left Villanova to acquire a Ph.D. in the History of Christianity from Fordham University. After his studies, Fr. Joe returned to Villanova, eager to reconnect with the campus community. In 1992, he was granted tenure and, in 1996, Associate Professorship.

As an Associate Professor in Historical Theology, Fr. Joe teaches popular theology courses including THL 1000: Faith, Reason and Culture and THM 5005: Religion in Russia, the latter counting towards the Russian Area Studies Major, Minor, and Concentration housed within the Department of Global Interdisciplinary Studies. 

“I am also a faculty member of the RAS Program since its foundation in 1996, serving as its Director from the fall of 2015 through the spring semester of 2022,” Fr. Joe said. 

Although he remains a busy faculty member, Fr. Joe has also written numerous academic articles, books and encyclopedia entries. Off Villanova’s campus, he serves the nearby community as a weekend associate pastor and retreat director for the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy (Diocese) of Passaic. Also, given his studies in physics and engineering, Fr. Joe is passionate about motor racing. He continues to serve as chaplain for numerous racing series’ organizations at various tracks, both national and international.

To those interested in pursuing religious life, Fr. Joe offers some words of advice.

“The word vocation, of course, means calling,” Fr. Joe said. “Don’t bear in isolation the angst-fraught question, ‘Do I, or do I not, have a vocation to religious life?’ Should you have the slightest inkling towards the possibility, nurture that seed by involving yourself with a religious community, and have faith that the community, in the Holy Spirit, will discern the truth and quality of your initial intuition with you.”