Weekly Club Spotlight: Villanova Pastoral Musicians


Courtesy of Gabby Slentz

Pastorals performs at St. Thomas of Villanova Church.

Chelsea Le Staff Writer

In a time of masks and social distancing, creating music through voices and instruments has become compromised due to the aerosol nature of the art. Despite this, the Villanova Pastoral Musicians, or “Pastorals,” continue to safely provide beautiful music for different liturgy and campus ministry events, primarily through leading the congregation in song at every mass. 

As part of the Center for Worship & Spirituality, Pastorals has welcomed individuals wishing to express and strengthen their faith through music ministry for almost 30 years. Amassing between 80 to 120 members, the club’s mission is to “create a welcoming environment for the Villanova community at campus masses while building a home of support, equity and inclusion.”

This non-auditioned based organization meets its members where they are at in their musical skills while providing ample opportunity for growth and education. 

With restrictions during mass preventing the usual practices and expression of music, Pastorals has been forced to adjust to unprecedented procedures. This includes limiting participation from singers and wind instruments while maintaining social distancing.

“The adjustment has been hard, especially because we aren’t able to be together,” President Mikaela Sanson said. “We’ve been doing our best to try to keep the spirit of Pastorals alive through the small choirs for mass and virtual singing offerings.”

The musicians typically perform on campus at events including Orientation Mass, Parents’ Weekend, Lessons & Carols and Baccalaureate Mass. Pastorals also travels during breaks to locations including Washington D.C., Italy and France. Instrumentalists accompany the singers with experience levels ranging from intermediate to advanced. Pianists are invited to assist with whole group rehearsals, and those with advanced training have the opportunity to accompany Sunday liturgies. 

“We have harps, guitars, flutes, violins, cellos, baritones, violas, saxophones, clarinets: you name it,” Sanson said. “If someone plays an instrument, we will do our best to include them in whatever way we can.”

Pastorals’ Board of Executives consists of a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer, three mass coordinators, three board advisors, instrumental coordinators and a publicity chair. General body members are required to attend weekly rehearsals and mass. Any additional participation is not mandatory but encouraged. To help members adjust, Pastorals hosts a new student member program, Caritas, every August.

“Since returning to campus, we’ve been doing our best to involve as many students as possible and to maintain our high standard of music-making in service to our community,” Sean McElwee, the Campus Minister for Liturgical Music, said. “Most importantly, safety has been our utmost priority. We have not cut any corners when it comes to safety.” 

Students who are interested in joining can reach out to existing members, email McElwee or walk up to the piano after Mass. Additional information can also be found on the Villanova Pastoral Musicians’ Facebook page and Instagram @vupastoralmusicians. 

“I joined Pastorals because I saw what the group offered, and I wanted that to be a part of my Villanova experience,” Sanson said. “I wanted to be able to affect people through music as well as be a part of a group that truly loves everyone that is in the group with them. We are always welcoming people into Pastorals. We take people of all different music backgrounds, religions, majors and places in life.”