“When you hear a calling, explore it — that’s God talking to you,” said Father Bernard Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D..
This week, Fr. Bernie offers Villanovans a glimpse into his life as an Augustinian at the University in the Augustinians of Villanova Column.
First and foremost, who are the Augustinians?
“The Augustinians are a religious order within the Roman Catholic Church,” Fr. Bernie explained. “We make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience that are lived out in the spirit of St. Augustine, our spiritual founder. Some of us become ordained ministers, deacons and then priests. Others continue as brothers, and, while they make the same vows, live in the same communities, and many of them are in ministry here at Villanova, they don’t feel a call to ordained ministry in the Church. So, they don’t do things like hear confessions or say mass, but they remain a part of this religious order.”
Fr. Bernie’s journey to the Augustinian life began back in his high school years at St. Rita of Cascia High School in Chicago, Illinois. As a student there, Fr. Bernie was surrounded and taught by devout Augustinians. During his years at St. Rita, he was attracted to the strong sense of community and brotherhood the Augustinians valued.
After graduation, Fr. Bernie pursued an undergraduate education here at the University in 1983 with studies in history, philosophy and religious studies. He lived with 16 other pre-seminary undergraduates and two Augustinians in Burns Hall, located on West Campus (where he once again has resided since 2019). While they participated in normal college student activities, they also enjoyed meals, celebrated Masses and prayed together.
“Since 1983, Villanova has always been home, and I think that’s really because of the Augustinians, that strong sense of community,” Fr. Bernie said.
Throughout his entire life, Fr. Bernie has felt a strong connection to religious life as well as to education because of the strong sense of community. He found that the Augustinian life perfectly encapsulates his interests: teaching and the priesthood.
“Augustine himself was a great educator,” Fr. Bernie said. “Christ is our ultimate teacher.”
Although the Order of St. Augustine was not founded until 1244, St. Augustine’s passion and love for education has proven contagious across the span of time, inspiring millions like Fr. Bernie.
In fact, Fr. Bernie has always wanted to be a history and theology teacher. His liberal arts education as an undergraduate from 1983-1987 prepared him for the Order of St. Augustine well, especially here at Villanova. But he soon heard a calling to Administration and, therefore, his focus shifted from teaching. He served as Headmaster of Cascia Hall Prep from 1997-2010 and as Provincial Superior of the Midwest and Canadian Augustinians from 2010-2018. He also served on the University’s Board of Trustees from 2008-2018.
Since June 2021, Fr. Bernie has taken on a new professional role in the Dean of Students Office as the Senior Associate Dean of Students for Student Support. Previously, Fr. Bernie was Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life. In his new role, Fr. Bernie offers a pastoral perspective to Student Life, and he is responsible for helping solve non-disciplinary issues like escalated roommate disagreements and health issues that cause students certain distress. Also, given the disruption and impact of COVID-19 on campus, Fr. Bernie is in charge of communicating with hotels reserved for quarantining should the University need them for students. He is also involved with Surveillance Testing, ensuring that students are able to remain safe and healthy. As the Senior Associate Dean of Students for Student Support, Fr. Bernie works closely with Public Safety, Resident Assistants, the Counseling and Health Centers and the rest of the Dean of Students Office in Dougherty Hall.
“I love being in Student Life because I’m connected to a wider crowd of people,” Fr. Bernie said.
He appreciates the brilliance of Villanova students, as well as how they try to share the Augustinian values of community, Unitas, Veritas and Caritas.
Fr. Bernie considers the University his home and therefore all who live here his extended family. He enjoys meeting new students on campus, and he encourages students to introduce themselves to him when he frequently sits out on a bench by the Oreo.
Villanovans can also find Fr. Bernie celebrating Mass every Wednesday at 12:05 p.m. in Corr Chapel, as well as Adoration, Confession and Mass on Sunday nights for students.
If undergraduates are interested in becoming an Augustinian or religious life in general, Fr. Bernie recommends that they visit the Vocation Office in the back of St. Thomas of Villanova Church. Also, he encourages those interested in religious life to get in touch with him or another Augustinian so that they can help guide them in the path they may feel called to.