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Pastoral Musicians

Villanova Pastoral Musicians

"I wept at the beauty of your hymns, and I was powerfully moved at the sweet sound ...Those sounds flowed into my ears, and the truth streamed into my heart."

—St. Augustine, Confessions 9,6

All singers and instrumentalists are welcome to join The Villanova Pastoral Musicians, an ansemble of about 40 undergraduate and graduate students. Inspired by the life of Saint Augustine, the Pastoral Musicians serve an important role in the life of the University community by inspiring congregational song and offering special music at Sunday evening and University-wide masses. 

In addition to their primary role of service in the sacred liturgy, the Pastoral Musicians engage the restless search for meaning together as an intentional and inclusive community. Opportunities for cultivating relationships, developing spiritual awareness and honing musical skills allow for a unique and valuable Villanova experience. An annual performance pilgrimage has become a hallmark of the Pastoral Musicians experience, and past sites have included Philadelphia, New York City, Washington, D.C., Vatican City and Italy. In Spring of 2025, the Pastoral Musicians will travel to France. Inspired by the social teachings of the Church, the Pastoral Musicians seek to promote sustainability and justice, especially through the careful procurement and presentation of repertoire, and thoughtful programming of works, to engage and expand the canon of sacred music within liturgies and concerts. 

Through these efforts, the Pastoral Musicians seek to inspire meditation on the beauty and mystery of God. 

Admitted Graduate Students who have keyboard skills are encouraged to apply for our Graduate Assitantship

A student holding her violin smiles at a fellow musician
Villanova Pastoral Musicians

Singers, novice and advanced, are always welcome to join. The ability to read music is a welcome skill, but not required for membership. In fact, sight reading and other musical skills will likely improve during your time with the ensemble! All members are asked to participate in a listening session with the Director. This is not an audition, but an easy way to determine your voice part and identify your skills and areas for growth. 

In addition to the choir, there are other vocal leadership opportunities. Cantors lead congregational song and psalmists proclaim the responsorial psalm during the Liturgy of the Word. Participation in these roles is determined by audition. These roles are not solo opportunities, but occasions for important ministry.  

Four sopranos singing against a blue light backdrop in the St. Thomas of Villanova Church
Villanova Pastoral Musicians

Students who play an instrument are welcome to join the Pastoral Musicians. Because we are responsible for weekly offerings, foundational music-reading skills will help instrumentalists be most successful. Still, improvisational playing is welcome and can even be developed during your time with the ensemble. Our group currently includes instruments from the string, woodwind, brass and percussion families. We work together as an ensemble to achieve the best sound, whether working with the singers on congregational hymns, major works, or offering instrumental pieces.

Students who have intermediate/advanced piano/keyboard skills are welcome to assist with whole group rehearsals, sectionals, and ensemble leadership at the Sunday evening Masses. If you sight read well, have prior choral/instrumental accompaniment experience, please contact the Director right away.

Students with advanced piano training will be offered the opportunity to accompany Sunday liturgies and concerts. 

A student playing french horn watches the conductor (out of frame)

Interested in joining the Pastoral Musicians? Contact the ensemble's Director, Sean McElwee; speak with any member of the Pastoral Musicians or join us for a rehearsal. 

Rehearsals are held Tuesdays from 5:30–7PM in the St. Thomas of Villanova Church, with occasional rehearsals Thursdays from 5:30-6:30PM. Rehearsals are mandatory, but if you have a conflict (such as a class or another ensemble commitment, please speak with the Director to create a plan for your successful participation. We will work with you! Call times are 30 minutes before mass, or earlier for larger occasions. Members are asked to arrange their schedules to accommodate large liturgies and concerts, which are announced with advanced notice.  Annual events include Orientation, Family Weekend Mass, Law School Red Mass, Holiday Concert, Performance Pilgrimage, Nursing Mass and Baccalaureate Mass. 

Villanova Pastoral Musicians

About the Program

Caritas is a formational program for returning Villanova students who are already members of or interested in joining the Pastoral Musicians. Caritas seeks to develop the spirit and skills of each Pastoral Musician, prepare repertoire for the school year, build relationships, and prepare and present music for the Orientation Liturgies. 

Returning students who have prior choral, band or orchestral experience, as well as any newcomers who want to begin their experience with this training program, are strongly encouraged to register. Students will

  • participate in skills workshops
  • receive repertoire training
  • participate in team-building activities
  • engage in leader formation
  • share in spiritual reflection
  • lead music for various liturgies
  • move into their rooms earlier than the rest of the student body

Getting Involved

To register, send an email to There is no fee, and meals are also provided. Those registering for Caritas are expected to attend all Caritas-related rehearsals and activities. Please plan according.

Fall 2024 Schedule

Registration Deadline: Wednesday, July 10

Move In: Friday, August 16 - Sunday, August 14 

Program Dates: Caritas begins Suday, August 18 at 2 PM and concludes the evening of Sunday, August 25.

Sean McElwee
Associate Director for Liturgical Music
Corr Hall, 1st Floor
(610) 519–7978

students lighting each other's candles at Mass

Liturgy Questions?

Contact Mathew Verghese.

Augustinian Vocations

Two Augustinian friars chatting and laughing

Are you or is someone you know discerning a call to be a religious priest or brother? Learn more about vocations to the Order of St. Augustine.