T. Shawn Tracy, O.S.A.

1940 – 2014 (July 20)

Thomas Shawn Tracy was born on March 6, 1940, in Washington, D.C. He was the son of John J. Tracy and Marion S. Mills, and had one brother and one sister. Shawn was baptized on March 31, 1940, at Saint Francis Xavier Church in Washington, attended the Campus School of the Catholic University of America, from 1946to 1954, and Archbishop Carroll High School, Washington, from which he graduated in 1958. He was received into the Order as a novice on September 9, 1958, and after a year at Good Counsel Novitiate, New Hamburg, New York, professed first vows on September 10, 1959. He attended Villanova University from 1959 to 1963, where he received a BA in Philosophy. He pursued theological studies at Augustinian College, Washington, and professed solemn vows on September 10, 1962. He was ordained to the priesthood on November 19, 1966, at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC, by Bishop Spence.

Father Shawn was assigned to Saint Nicholas of Tolentine Parish and High School, Bronx, New York, in 1967. During this assignment he also attended New York Theological Seminary and received an MA in Pastoral Counseling. While in the Bronx, with a group of parishioners, he began writing and playing a folk-inspired style of liturgical music. He also became involved with a new youth ministry, Teens Encounter Christ [TEC], from which an off-shoot designed for persons with physical disabilities emerged, called Handicapped Encounter Christ [HEC].

In 1975 he was assigned to Saint John Stone Friary, Villanova, Pennsylvania, and served in Campus Ministry at Villanova University, while he continued writing music, bringing people from the Bronx together with others at Villanova, and created a new group called He Shall Be Peace. He also continued his work with HEC. In 1995 Father Shawn stepped down from the position of Director of Campus Ministry to devote more time to the ministries of music, liturgy and retreats. He organized a group called Sanctuary and the focus of the music changed from music for liturgy to music as an accompaniment for prayer and contemplation. 

In 2007 he was assigned to Saint Augustine Friary, Villanova, where he was appointed prior. For health reasons, in December 2013, he moved to the Residential Care Center at St. Thomas of Villanova Monastery. He was taken to Lankenau Hospital where he died on Sunday, July 20, 2014, surrounded by his family. He is buried in Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, PA.

Father Shawn sought to balance a spiritual life of prayer with ministry to God’s people. He was an unassuming man who uttered kind words and saw Scripture as poetry. His ministry was one of putting music to that poetry, thus bringing God’s word into hearts, his own and others’.