Province Timeline

Use this interactive timeline to discover the fascinating history of the Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova. When viewing the timeline, click on a link to see images and learn more about that subject. Significant events in the history of the United States are incorporated into the timeline to provide reference points and a context in which to follow the history of the Augustinians in the United States.

This timeline and online history are based on the exhibit on Augustinian history found in the Augustinian Heritage Room, located at Saint Thomas of Villanova Monastery on the Villanova University campus. To visit the Augustinian Heritage Room or arrange a tour, please call 610.519.6083.


The Augustinians in the United States trace their heritage back to Northern Africa in the early fifth century and the great Bishop of Hippo, St. Augustine. The Order as we know it today was established in 1244 by Pope Innocent IV when he united several hermit groups, calling them to follow the ancient Rule of St. Augustine. The spirituality of the Augustinian Order is greatly influenced by the spirituality of St. Augustine.

In the final decade of the eighteenth century, the uncertain, experimental new nation that called itself the United States of America had a population of about four million. For the period 1790-1800, Philadelphia was its national capital. Not even one percent of the American people - only about 35,000 - were Catholic. There was one Catholic Diocese, in Baltimore, for the entire nation.

Although the Augustinian foundation in the United States began in 1796, as the country grew in size and population there were very few Augustinians here. From 1820 to 1828 there was only one. Even as late as 1841, nearly half a century after the beginning, there were only five Augustinians in the entire country, and Catholics faced widespread hostility.

How could an Augustinian foundation ever have been maintained under such conditions? Why did it not fail? And how could it have come to be so strong? By the Grace of God. That story is the subject of this interactive timeline.

The story of the early Augustinians in America is a story of considerable difficulty, almost unbelievable in its persistence, like a single candle that, under constant threat of blowing winds, bravely and stubbornly flickers on.

"The earliest years of the history of the Augustinians in the United States were at best precarious. The first half-century from 1796 to 1844 was a period of severe trials and discouraging conflicts, some of which might well have destroyed the enterprise altogether. The number of friars in that period was never large and at times it was reduced to as few as one or two. The Augustinians of that age could hardly have foreseen that about a century and a half later the American branch of their Order would grow into three vigorous provinces."

Father Arthur Ennis, O.S.A.
The Augustinians

1734 In Philadelphia, a Catholic chapel, St. Joseph’s, is opened by Jesuits
1753 Two bells are cast at the Whitechapel bell foundry in London, England. Both are sent to America, and both are hung in the Pennsylvania State House. One of these two later will become famous as the “Liberty Bell.” The other one will become known as the “Sister Bell”
1763 St. Mary’s Catholic Church is built in Philadelphia
1776 Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia
1787 Constitutional Convention meets in Philadelphia, in Independence Hall
1789 The first Catholic Diocese in the United States is created in Baltimore, to serve the nation’s approximately 35,000 Catholics (out of a total population of about 4 million). The first Bishop is John Carroll, a Jesuit born in America
Bishop Carroll appeals to the religious communities in Europe, including those in Ireland, for priests to serve his far-flung Diocese
George Washington is inaugurated as first President of the United States, in New York City
1790 Philadelphia, the largest city in the United States, becomes its temporary capital
1795 On November 21, in response to Bishop Carroll’s appeal, the Prior General gives Father Matthew Carr, OSA, Prior of the Dublin Community, permission “to preach the Word of God” in America
1796 Father Carr, with his new credentials and the blessings of his Provincial and the Archbishop of Dublin, sails for America on February 29
On Monday, April 18, Father Carr arrives in Philadelphia, where he begins the first Augustinian foundation in the United States
Father Carr successfully raises money for the construction of a new Catholic church from a number of contributors, including President George Washington, Commodore John Barry, Congressman Thomas FitzSimons, and the financier Stephen Girard
In July, Father Carr, on behalf of the new Augustinian foundation, purchases land, at Fourth and Vine Streets, on which the new St. Augustine Church will be built. It is the same land on which St. Augustine Church stands today
On August 27, in Rome, the Augustinian General Council formally authorizes the American venture, creating a new Province in the United States under the patronage of Our Mother of Good Counsel
In September, the cornerstone of St. Augustine Church is laid
1797 Michael Hurley of Philadelphia, the first candidate to join the Augustinian Order in the United States, sails to Italy for his religious education
In March, John Adams becomes President, taking the oath of office at Congress Hall, Sixth and Chestnut Streets
1799 George Washington dies at Mount Vernon, on December 14
1800 In Philadelphia, on February 22 at St. Mary’s Church, Father Carr, OSA, gives a memorable eulogy for George Washington
The national capital moves from Philadelphia to the new city of Washington, District of Columbia
1801 On June 7, St. Augustine Church, Philadelphia opens for worship
Thomas Jefferson becomes President
1802 Father Carr becomes a United States citizen
1803 Father Michael Hurley, OSA, having been ordained in Italy, returns to Philadelphia
1804 Brothers of the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine is incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is the first religious order to be incorporated in the United States
1809 James Madison becomes President
1812-1815 War of 1812
1817 James Monroe becomes President
1820 Father Matthew Carr, OSA, dies
1822 Denis Kelly and his wife donate the land near Cobb’s Creek, Pennsylvania, on which St. Denis Church later will be built
1823 Nicholas O’Donnell enters the Augustinian Order in Ireland
1825 John Quincy Adams becomes President
1828 Father Michael Hurley, OSA, the sole Augustinian in the United States since 1820, is joined in Philadelphia by Father William O’Donnell, OSA, and his brother, Father Nicholas O’Donnell, OSA. Each had been ordained in Italy earlier in the year
1829 Bell tower is added to St. Augustine Church, Philadelphia
Andrew Jackson becomes President
1830 The “Sister Bell” to the Liberty Bell is transferred by the City of Philadelphia to St. Augustine Church, and into the perpetual care of the Augustinians
1832 James O'Donnell enters the Augustinian Order, in Philadelphia. He will be the first Augustinian to make profession of vows and be ordained a priest in the American mission
Father Michael Hurley, OSA, is publicly praised by Philadelphia authorities for his “humane and fearless attention to the sick and dying” during Philadelphia’s cholera epidemic of 1832
1833 In January, the Catholic Herald of Philadelphia first appears. Father Nicholas O’Donnell, OSA, is editor
1837 Father Michael Hurley, OSA, dies, at St. Augustine Church
Martin van Buren becomes President
1839 On July 1, the Bishop of New York appoints Father Nicholas O’Donnell, OSA, Pastor of St. Paul’s Church, Brooklyn, New York and declares St. Paul’s “to be a church of the Order of St. Augustine.” This is the second OSA foundation in the United States
1841 William Henry Harrison becomes President
Harrison dies; John Tyler becomes President
On October 13, Bel Air, the estate of the Rudolph family, is purchased by the Augustinians for $18,000. It is intended to be a center of Augustinian life and formation, a place to establish an organized program of education for the priesthood, and an academy for Catholic boys, one that would be a probable source of vocations. On the property was a farm, the sale of whose produce would generate revenue for the Province
(Bel Air is the site of Villanova University)
1843 St. Thomas of Villanova College is inaugurated, and the first classes begin. William Harnett, OSA, is among the new recruits. A Novitiate is canonically erected, and rules of common life are spelled out and officially sanctioned. Villanova thus becomes the center of the American Augustinian foundation, and it will remain so for more than 70 years
1844 At the beginning of this year, there are 12 Augustinian friars in the United States. By the end of the year, there are 14
On May 8, Saint Augustine Church, Philadelphia, is burned to the ground by “Nativist” rioters. Fathers Francis Ashe, James O’Donnell, and Thomas Kyle, all OSA, are temporarily trapped in the rectory but escape. Losses include many books and a number of irreplaceable paintings. The “Sister Bell” is badly damaged
1845 James Polk becomes President
1847 Cornerstone of the replacement (and the present) St. Augustine Church is laid by Philadelphia Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick
Fragments of the Sister Bell are recast. The refashioned bell then is sent to the Augustinian Community at Villanova, where it remains today
On November 27, St. Augustine Church is awarded $47,433.87 in its civil action against the City and County of Philadelphia for the church’s destruction during the riots of May 1844
1848 Villanova College is formally incorporated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Father John Possidius O'Dwyer, OSA , is named the first President of Villanova College
Bishop Kenrick of Philadelphia consecrates the rebuilt St. Augustine Church, on November 5
Augustinian foundations are established in the Boston Diocese, at Lawrence and Andover, Massachusetts. Father James O’Donnell, OSA, is sent to Lawrence
1849 Zachary Taylor becomes President
1850 Taylor dies; Millard Fillmore becomes President
1851 Dr. Patrick Moriarty, OSA , is named President of Villanova. He will serve in this office until 1854
1853 Augustinians assume the care of the Church of St. Denis, Cobb’s Hill (or Cobb’s Creek), in present-day Havertown, Pennsylvania
Franklin Pierce becomes President
1855 Augustinians found Our Mother of Consolation Church, Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania. Dr. Moriarty blesses the cornerstone
The Augustinians found St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish, Atlantic City, New Jersey
1857 Villanova College classes are suspended, due to a number of financial problems and personnel shortages. The college classes will not resume until the end of the Civil War, in 1865
James Buchanan becomes President
1858 The Augustinians are invited to assume the care of St. John’s Church in Lansingburg, New York (now St. Augustine, Troy, New York) and also of St. Mary’s Church in Waterford, New York
1859 Augustinians found St. John the Baptist Church, in Schaghticoke, New York
1861 Father James O’Donnell, OSA, dies, in Lawrence, Massachusetts
Abraham Lincoln becomes President
Firing on Fort Sumter; Civil War begins
1865 Lincoln assassinated; Andrew Johnson becomes President
Villanova College classes resume. Dr. Ambrose Mullan, OSA, is named President of Villanova as well as Prior of the Villanova religious community. He serves as President from 1865 to 1869
Father Thomas Middleton, OSA, joins the Villanova faculty, on which he will serve for the next 58 years, until his death in 1923
Father Pacifico Neno, OSA , is made Prefect of Studies at Villanova, in which position he will remain until 1880
Father Francis Sheeran, OSA, joins the Villanova faculty, on which he will serve until 1898. During four of these years, he will be President of Villanova
1867 The first weekend spiritual retreat for the entire Augustinian Community in the United States is held. The Community numbers 44 friars
1869 Ulysses S. Grant becomes President
1870 The Augustinian Society of the State of New York is incorporated

In July, the Augustinians establish St. Joseph Parish in Greenwich, New York
1874 On August 25, an American Province is formally established, under the patronage of St. Thomas of Villanova. The decree of foundation for the Province is issued on this day by the Prior General, with the consent of his Council
On April 17, the Augustinians assume the pastoral care of St. James Minor Parish in Cathage, New York
On December 15, the first Provincial Chapter convenes at Villanova. Father Thomas Galberry, OSA , is elected the first Prior Provincial
1875 Dr. Moriarty gives his last lecture, at the Academy of Music, Philadelphia, on March 17. He dies at the Villanova Monastery on July 10
1876 On March 19, Father Thomas Galberry, OSA, is ordained Bishop of Hartford, Connecticut. Father Patrick A. Stanton, OSA , is appointed Prior Provincial
1877 Rutherford B. Hayes becomes President
1878 Father Pacifico Neno, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1880 Father Neno is called to Rome, to take over the government of the Augustinian Order. Father Stanton is appointed to replace him as Prior Provincial.
1881 James Garfield becomes President
1882 Father Christopher A. McEvoy, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1883 At Villanova, construction of St. Thomas of Villanova Church begins
1885 Grover Cleveland becomes President
Augustinians found the parish of Our Mother of Good Counsel, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania
1887 On July 23, the newly-completed St. Thomas of Villanova Church is blessed by Philadelphia Archbishop Patrick J. Ryan
1889 Benjamin Harrison becomes President
Father James D. Waldron, OSA, is appointed Prior Provincial
1890 Father Waldron is elected Prior Provincial
1893 Grover Cleveland becomes President again
1894 First visitation in the United States by a Prior General is made by Father Sebastian Martinelli, OSA. (In 1901, Father Martinelli will be created a Cardinal)
Father Charles Mary Driscoll, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1896 William McKinley becomes President
Electric lights first appear at Villanova
1897 The Augustinians, in response to the appeal of Philadelphia Archbishop Patrick Ryan for pastoral care for the many thousands of Italian immigrants then arriving in America with little money or knowledge of English, initiate a mission enterprise in South Philadelphia. This activity later will grow into the Vice Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel, Philadelphia
1898 Spanish-American War
Father John J. Fedigan, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1899 Two friars from the Province go to Cuba, to assume the care of San Agustín Chapel. This is the first foreign mission of the American Augustinians
The first telephone at Villanova is installed in the President’s office
On April 1, ground is broken at Villanova for the construction of a new monastery
The first Catholic high school on Staten Island, New York, is founded by the Augustinians, at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish
1901 McKinley assassinated; Theodore Roosevelt becomes President
At Villanova, the new St. Thomas of Villanova Monastery is completed and occupied. In September, New College Hall opens its doors to students
1902 The old monastery, the Rudolph Mansion, at Villanova is renovated and reopened for seminarians. It soon becomes known as St. Rita’s Hall
Father Martin J. Geraghty, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1905 In May, Father James F. Green, OSA, is sent to Chicago at the invitation of the Archbishop of Chicago, thus becoming the first Augustinian to serve in the Midwestern United States
1906 The Augustinians establish St. Nicholas of Tolentine Parish in the Bronx, New York City
1907 The Augustinians establish St. Rita Parish on Broad Street in Philadelphia
1909 William Howard Taft becomes President
1912 At Villanova, St. Rita’s Hall, the former Rudolph Mansion, is destroyed by fire. Construction of a new seminary building begins. It becomes known as St. Mary’s Hall, or Corr Hall
Italian Augustinians establish St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, in South Philadelphia
1913 Woodrow Wilson becomes President
1914 Father Nicholas J. Murphy, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1917-1918 U.S. in World War I
1917 Father Charles Mary Driscoll, OSA, once again serves as Prior Provincial
1918 Father Nicholas J. Vasey, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1919 On October 1, a house at 1041 Lawrence Street in the District of Columbia, near Catholic University, is purchased by the Augustinians and named Augustinian College. Theological students then at St. Mary’s Hall, Villanova, are sent there, to study at Catholic University and have a house of studies for theology. This move ends a period of more than 70 years when all the houses of formation were at Villanova
In December, part of the Robinson estate, on Harewood Road near Catholic University, is purchased by the Augustinians. It will be the permanent site of Augustinian College
1920 Father Charles Mary Driscoll, OSA, is elected fourth Assistant General, thus becoming the first American-born Augustinian to serve as a member of the General Curia
1921 Warren G. Harding becomes President
1921-1925 Foundations are begun in California, at San Diego (including St. Augustine High School and St. Patrick Parish), Ojai (including Villanova Preparatory School and the Parish of St. Thomas of Aquinas), and Los Angeles (including the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel, Hollywood). These later will become part of a new California Province
1922 Minor seminary is moved from Villanova to the high school at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, Staten Island, New York
The Augustinian seminary community in Washington, D.C., moves from the Lawrence Street house into the new St. Augustine College building, constructed on the site of the previously-acquired Robinson estate
1923 The Augustinian College of the District of Columbia is incorporated, to enhance the education of Augustinian seminarians who have completed their Novitiate
The Academy at Villanova is moved to Malvern, Pennsylvania, thus beginning Malvern Preparatory School
The high school at Our Lady of Good Counsel parish, Staten Island, New York, becomes Augustinian Academy
Harding dies; Calvin Coolidge becomes President
1925 The Vice Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel, Philadelphia, is established
Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate is established, in New Hamburg, New York
1926 Father Daniel A. Herron, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1929 Herbert Hoover becomes President
1930 On August 28, in Washington, D.C., the cornerstone is laid for a larger building at Augustinian College
1932 On August 2, the 1899 monastery at Villanova is almost totally destroyed by fire, although the present St. Thomas Hall survives
Father Mortimer A. Sullivan, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes President
1938 At the 1938 Chapter meeting, a commission is established to pursue the creation of a new Midwestern province
Father John T. Sheehan, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1941 On April 26, the Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel (Chicago) is created. Father Patrick Kehoe, OSA, is designated Commissary Provincial. Existing Augustinian foundations in the Midwestern United States are placed in the care the new Province
1941-1945 U.S. in World War II
1944 Father Mortimer Sullivan, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
1945 Roosevelt dies; Harry S Truman becomes President
1946 Universidad Católica de Santo Tomás de Villanueva is established in Havana, Cuba
1947 General Chapter elects Father Joseph A. Hickey, OSA, Prior General. He is the first American member of the Order to hold this office, in which he will serve from 1947 to 1953
The Augustinian College of The Merrimack Valley, North Andover, Massachusetts, is founded, and the Monastery of Our Mother of Good Counsel is built there
1948 A new chapel is built at the Novitiate in New Hamburg, New York
1949 Father John T. Sheehan, OSA, again serves as Prior Provincial
1950 Father Joseph M. Dougherty, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial, in which office he will serve until his death in 1954
1951 Archbishop John Carroll High School opens in Washington, D.C
1952 A foreign mission field is established by this province in Nagasaki, Japan
1953 Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes President
Ste. Genevieve’s Church, Flourtown, Pennsylvania, is established from the Chestnut Hill foundation
Monsignor Bonner High School opens in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania
1954 Father Henry E. Greenlee, OSA, is appointed Rector Provincial. In 1956, he is elected Prior Provincial and will serve until 1959
1957 A new California Vice Province is erected
1958 A new house is built at Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, New York, to accommodate the increasing number of vocations
1959 Father James A. Donnellon, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial and will serve until 1965
1961 John F. Kennedy becomes President
Augustinian foundations in Cuba are terminated by the Castro regime, although one Catholic priest, Father John McKniff, OSA, is permitted to remain in Cuba
The Archbishop of Miami, Florida, asks the Augustinians to found a college in the Miami area. They do so, and it is named Biscayne College
Austin Preparatory School, Reading, Massachusetts, is founded
1962 At Villanova, the construction of a new seminary building, St. Mary’s Hall, is begun
1963 Kennedy assassinated; Lyndon B. Johnson becomes President
1964 In a joint venture, the Midwestern and St. Thomas of Villanova Provinces establish a foreign mission field in the Prelature of Chulucanas, Peru. The Midwest Province assumes control of the corporate structure
1965 Father James G. Sherman, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial and will serve until 1968
1968 Father John McKniff, OSA, leaves Cuba to come to the United States for medical treatment. The Castro regime does not permit him to return
Father Edward L. Daley, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial and will serve until 1971
1969 On March 17, the Province of St. Augustine is established in California. Father John F. Blethen, OSA, is named Prior Provincial and serves in this office until 1975. Existing Augustinian foundations in the Western United States are placed in the care this new Province
Richard M. Nixon becomes President

The Augustinians close Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York, and in the same structure open Mount Augustine Apostolic Center
1971 Father Harry A. Cassel, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial. He will serve in this office until 1979
1972 St. Mary’s Hall, theretofore a seminary, is leased to Villanova University and converted into a residence hall. The formation program is moved to four houses on Lancaster Avenue
1974 Nixon resigns; Gerald Ford becomes President
1977 Jimmy Carter becomes President
1979 Father Robert M. Wesson, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial. He will serve in this office until 1981
1981 Father Joseph A. Duffey, OSA, becomes Rector Provincial. He will serve in this office until 1982
Ronald Reagan becomes President
1982 Father Joseph A. Duffey, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial and will serve in this office until 1990
1983 Biscayne College, Miami, Florida, becomes St. Thomas of Villanova University. The name later will be changed to St. Thomas University
1988 Augustinians withdraw their sponsorship of St. Thomas University and relinquish it to the Archbishop of Miami
1989 George H. W. Bush becomes President
1990 Father John J. Hagen, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial. He will serve in this office until 1994
1993 Bill Clinton becomes President
1994 Father John E. Deegan, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial. He will serve in this office until 2002
The Vice Province of Our Mother of Good Counsel is suppressed. Its assets are merged with those of the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova, with the exception of the parish of Our Lady of Pompeii, East Vineland, New Jersey, which is relinquished to the Bishop of Camden. This Province, accordingly, assumes from the former Vice Province the care of St. Augustine Preparatory School, Richland, New Jersey, and St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, Philadelphia
The Provincial Chapter – the first Provincial Chapter of the Whole (where every Friar is a Capitular) in the Province’s two centuries of existence – decides to seek to reclaim the Province’s original mission, to meet the needs of the Church. It does this by determining to relinquish selected apostolates and also open new foundations
1997 This Province establishes a foreign mission field in South Africa
1997-2005 As a consequence of the 1994 Chapter, the Province relinquishes several foundations in New York, New England, Pennsylvania and Florida and opens foundations in North Carolina and Florida
2001 George W. Bush becomes President
2002 Father Robert F. Prevost, OSA, of the Midwestern Province, is elected Prior General
Father Donald F. Reilly, OSA, is elected Prior Provincial
2006 Father Donald F. Reilly, OSA, is re-elected Prior Provincial
2009 Barack Obama becomes President
2010 Fr. Anthony M. Genovese, OSA is elected Prior Provincial
2012 The Federation of Augustinians of North America (FANA) is established on February 22, as the Prior General and his Council in Rome approved the Federation and statutes.
2014 Fr. Michael F. Di Gregorio, OSA is elected Prior Provincial