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  • Writer's pictureAugustinian Vocations

How I Came To Live With The Augustinians

by John Greene

I write to you from the Augustinian monastery at Cascia Hall Preparatory School in Tulsa, OK, where I am spending a year in service and prayer with the friars as I apply to medical schools. This experience was formulated by Fr. Tom McCarthy, O.S.A. whom I encountered as a student on the campus of Villanova University. Thus far, it has been an incredibly enriching opportunity, full of wonderful people and moments of growth, and I hope that others may take this same path after me.

Before I get too carried away, however, I should probably talk a bit more about who I am. I grew up in Rochester, Michigan. There, I attended Holy Family Regional School, then Notre Dame Preparatory High School. It was this solid foundation of Catholic education that cultivated a love for service. I then attended Villanova University, where I obtained my degree in Biochemistry, a secondary major in Humanities, and a minor in Music. Service was essential to every aspect of my experience there. It directed my vocation to be a physician, and my leadership in the Villanova Band and Service Learning Community was rooted in a desire to give back.

While preparing for Medical School, I was informed that many students chose to take a "gap year." I initially dismissed the idea, not wanting to delay my education. As I got more involved in service, however, I met Kelsey Rode, a graduate student at Villanova. She had just completed the Augustinian Volunteer Program, and talking with her about that experience slowly turned my heart. One day I realized that I had already made up my mind.

Crucially, however, I was not going to take this year of service because it would benefit my admission to medical school. I didn't decide to do it because I thought I could change the world. I didn't decide to do it to pat myself on the back and elevate how I thought of myself. I decided to do it because that was what God was calling me to do. I decided to do it because that's who I am; service orients my life.

Why did I choose this path from among the many opportunities available to me? I chose it because of my love for the Augustinian community, especially my time spent with Fr. Tom McCarthy, O.S.A. and Fr. Bernie Scianna, O.S.A. The first time I met Fr. Tom was when he walked past me in the grotto at Villanova reading Augustine's Confessions. He quipped that I looked like I was straight out of an advertisement for Villanova, probably even more so when the two of us got to talking. After that I met Fr. Bernie through his nephew, and one of my best friends, Trevor Scianna. I continued to get to know him over my time at Villanova, as he would take our friend group (the "Jackson 5") out to dinner. He quickly became a role model in my life.

Eventually, Fr. Tom came to Fr. Bernie with his idea for this service experience, and Father Bernie recommended me, since he knew I wanted to do a year of service. Fr. Tom reached out and we started to come up with what the experience would look like. I would live in community with the Augustinians at Cascia Hall, serve in Campus Ministry, help out wherever I was needed in the school, and have the flexibility to engage in clinical experiences, if possible.

Having the ability to craft this experience around my strengths has enabled me to really get the most out of the year. The first thing I mention when people ask about this experience is how wonderful the people are here in the Cascia Hall Community. I felt immediately welcomed and embraced, with so many people excited to help me find my place in the school, an already well-functioning machine.

There are no "normal" weeks in my time so far, but there is almost always something that needs to be done, so I help lighten the load for many different people. My service opportunities have included the following: I am the faculty advisor for the Green Team (the environmental club); I have helped with freshman, sophomore, and 8th grade retreats; assisted Gemma Booth with Cognia School Certification; helped the pep band at football games and pep rallies; assisted with the Science Research program; and I was a faculty team member on Kairos 114. It has been an honor to be a small part of such a loving and uplifting community.

This winter, I taught my first mini-course: Ethics of Medicine. This course sought to ask a few big questions: How do we serve ethically in the health professions? How do we discern our ethical standards? Teaching for the first time was a challenge, but once the class hit a rhythm it was wonderful. I was blessed to have a class that really engaged with the questions being asked; it allowed us to dig deep into different ethical paradigms and their differences, as well as tackle some difficult case studies. I am currently teaching a full course in tandem with Bonnie Leighty, Speech II, which is centered on teaching rhetorical skills with an orientation to service and activism. This course asks students to engage in productive dialogue with each other about difficult issues, hopefully fostering a skill that will last a lifetime.

Living in community with Fr. Stephen, Br. Nick, and Fr. Philip has been such an incredible privilege. Their kindness and inclusion of me has made this experience one of a kind. I join them for morning prayer, dinner, and evening prayer every day, and this daily rhythm has greatly enhanced my prayer life and offers a consistency that I find heartening. Taking this gap year in such a busy time in my life has also allowed me to take a moment to breathe and reflect, continuing my intellectual/spiritual journey through more reading and discussion with friends.

I am so grateful to have had this experience, and it would not be possible without so many different people who have helped it come to fruition. I would like to especially thank my parents, who never for a second hesitated to allow me to take this year to serve. If anyone is reading this and would like to reach out to either talk with me about my experience or would be interested in doing something similar, please contact me at

Learn more about what it means to be an Augustinian by checking out our other blog posts here


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