Augustinians of Villanova: Father Steve Baker


Courtesy of Villanova University

Father Stephen Baker is a resident Augustinian here at Villanova. 

Olivia Sabalaskey, Staff Writer

Who are the Augustinians? What do they do? Are they priests? Are they professors? 

Fear not, for in this new column, the Augustinians of Villanova, we hope to answer your burning questions by introducing you to some of the most beloved, inspiring and insightful members of Villanova: the Augustinians. 

This week, Father Stephen Baker, O.S.A., Ed.D., or Fr. Steve, offers Villanovans a glimpse into the life of an Augustinian like himself. 

“An Augustinian is a member of the religious order founded in the spirit of St. Augustine,” Fr. Steve said. “He isn’t actually our founder, but, in 1256, all followers were asked by Pope [Innocent IV] to come together to form one order for St. Augustine.”

Members of the Order are asked to come together to form and live in a community who pray together, share meals together and build a real sense of brotherhood that they try to live out. Augustinians are also very involved in various types of ministries. In other words, wherever the Catholic Church needs them, Augustinians try to respond to that call or need. For example, Augustinians like Fr. Steve have served in higher education, in parishes, as missionaries and in hospitals. 

“One of the beautiful things about the Order is the diverse ministries we work for,” Fr. Steve said.

But how does one become an Augustinian? Why do they become a member of the Order of St. Augustine?

Every Augustinian has his own story of how and why he joined religious life. For example, Fr. Steve felt a strong connection with the Augustinians because they taught at Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast Catholic High School, his high school. During his years there, Fr. Steve felt a calling to religious life, but was unsure in which direction to proceed.

“Initially, I was thinking of entering the diocesan priesthood, but I was torn because I wanted to teach as well,” Fr. Steve said. “The Augustinians who taught me, they seemed like they were happy, that they enjoyed being around each other, the work itself, working in education, teaching our youth, etc. So, the Augustinian life fit really well with my interests in both teaching and religious life.”

Later, Fr. Steve attended vocational retreats with the Augustinians that were very influential. Once he decided that he would pursue a life as an Augustinian, he pursued an undergraduate education in English at Villanova University. Fr. Steve then made his final confession as a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience. Five years later, he was ordained into the priesthood.

“I was a priest in parish ministry in Upstate New York for a while, then another parish north of Boston,” Fr. Steve said. “I went back to school to teach secondary education, then was called to return to being a parish priest in Staten Island, New York, and, finally, I returned to teaching again.”

While he taught at these high schools, he felt that it was crucial to gain more experience and knowledge in the area of education. So, Fr. Steve went to Saint Joseph’s University and got his Master’s Degree, M.S. in Secondary Education as well as his Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Educational Leadership. 

After years of study and obtaining his prestigious achievements, Fr. Steve thought he was going to return to teach secondary education. However, when asked if he would like to teach in higher education, he sought the chance to teach at Villanova. 

“This is actually my tenth year here at Villanova,” Fr. Steve said. “I came to Villanova in 2011. Since then, I have taught ACS [Augustine and Culture Seminar Program], and I am an academic advisor in the Office of Undergraduate Students. I also teach EDU-2202: Social Foundation Edu II because of my passion for educational and social justice issues in secondary education.”

Fr. Steve also helps with masses at the St. Thomas of Villanova Church on campus, as well as Confessions. He enjoys ​living on Campus at the Monastery in Tolentine Hall because it is in the central heart of Campus. He walks around frequently to meet and interact with students on his way to the other side of Tolentine Hall where he teaches his courses.

For those interested in getting to know an Augustinian like Fr. Steve more, he recommends that students take time out of their schedules to attend mass on Sundays or during the week, stop and chat with Augustinians who frequently walk around campus, or visit the Vocational Office located in the back of St. Thomas of Villanova’s Church, since many Augustinians spend their free time there.

Lastly, Fr. Steve is proud to be a Villanovan. 

“I see the Villanovan values of Unitas, Veritas, and Caritas trying to be lived out daily,” Fr. Steve said. “Although we all don’t live them out perfectly, we strive each and every day to live out these values that the Augustinians hold dear.”