Corr Chapel, Villanova, PA (Exterior)

Corr Chapel at Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania, USA


Info and corrections →

Mystery Worshipper:
Church: Corr Chapel at Villanova University
Location: Villanova, Pennsylvania, USA
Date of visit: Saturday, 20 September 2014, 5:30pm

The building

A Gothic Revival hall built in 1912 to house the Augustinian seminary. It was financed by a generous gift from Bernard Corr, a wealthy businessman who made his fortune in the wholesale liquor business as well as banking, transportation and real estate. Work on the chapel was suspended upon Corr's death and, although usable, it was not finished until 2006. It has a distinctly medieval feel to it, enhanced by a crenelated tower. The interior is beautiful in its starkness and simplicity. There is some elegant stained glass, including a memorial to Villanova University alumni who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

The church

Villanova University is ranked among America's finest institutes of higher learning, with specialties in business, engineering, law and nursing. Corr Chapel was originally used by the seminarians, but is now set aside for worship by visitors and students when the campus' main church, St Thomas of Villanova, is not available.

The neighborhood

The unincorporated community of Villanova is a "Main Line" suburb just to the west of Philadelphia. ("Main Line" refers to the commuter line of the old Pennsylvania Railroad that once served Philadelphia's poshest, most upper-class suburbs; SEPTA – the Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority – now provides that service.) The green, leafy Villanova campus was once an officially designated arboretum but lost that status due to new plantings and tourist activity. Even so, the campus boasts the only known instance of a sequoia east of the Mississippi River. Some of the older buildings on campus served as a military barracks and hospital during the American Civil War and have been the source of tales of secret underground passageways, catacombs and sealed-off wings. Naturally they are also said to be haunted.

The cast

I did not get the name of the priest.

What was the name of the service?


How full was the building?

It was parents' weekend at Villanova. The small chapel was bursting at the seams with people. There were even folks standing near the back, despite a few empty chairs near the small altar. I suppose they were late and didn't want to walk in?

Did anyone welcome you personally?

There were two young men who were holding open the doors to the chapel and greeting people on their way in.

Was your pew comfortable?

I was sitting in a dark wooden chair with a shelf under it that held the hymnal. It was decently comfortable.

How would you describe the pre-service atmosphere?

Quiet, with people finding places to sit and young men adding folding chairs in places since there were lots of people filing in.

What were the exact opening words of the service?

"Good afternoon. Please turn off your cell phones and beepers. Turn to those around you and greet each other as brothers and sisters in Christ."

What books did the congregation use during the service?

A large print booklet titled Breaking Bread 2014. They were all in green plastic holders.

What musical instruments were played?

There was a man at the back of the chapel who was playing guitar and leading us in song.

Did anything distract you?

The prettiness of the chapel distracted me. There was a high ceiling with dark wooden beams. But the stained glass windows alternated with plain glass windows following them. Plain glass? Did they run out of money or something? Also, there were marble statutes lining the walls, but I couldn't make out which saints they represented.

Was the worship stiff-upper-lip, happy clappy, or what?

The worship was happy but not clappy. Everyone sang and voices were loud and there were a lot of smiling people about.

Exactly how long was the sermon?

6 minutes.

On a scale of 1-10, how good was the preacher?

10 – The preacher took a confusing gospel and explained it. Some in my party feel that he "hit it out of the park."

In a nutshell, what was the sermon about?

The sermon was on the gospel reading, Matthew 20:1-16 (the parable of the laborers in the vineyard). Our first reaction is likely to be: "How unfair to pay everyone the same wage when they worked different hours." However, we are not looking at it the way God does. We should not compare ourselves to others, which we always do. Why not just be happy to be a child of God? Ask yourself: Are you happy? Measure your happiness not by comparing yourself to others, but by being thankful for what you have. What are your gifts?

Which part of the service was like being in heaven?

I think the people, the singing, and the way everyone seemed so friendly and nice made it a heavenly celebration.

And which part was like being in... er... the other place?

The plain glass windows bothered me a lot. They seemed out of place in the chapel. Sort of a blight on the landscape.

What happened when you hung around after the service looking lost?

Everyone filed out and shook hands with the priest but there was no hanging about. My dinner was waiting for me and so I didn't hang about either.

How would you describe the after-service coffee?

We had to content ourselves just with chatting with others and shaking hands with the priest.

How would you feel about making another visit (where 10 = ecstatic, 0 = terminal)?

10 – This is a chapel for students and was only open for the parents and visitors this weekend. It is not possible for me to make this my parish.

Did the service make you feel glad to be a Christian?

This service made me very happy to be a Christian. I feel the preaching here is far superior to the preaching in most parish churches.

What one thing will you remember about all this in seven days' time ?

I will remember the priest's sermon and how pretty the chapel was.

Our Mystery Worshippers are volunteers who warm church pews for us around the world. If you’d like to become a Mystery Worshipper, start here.

Find out how to reproduce this report in your church magazine or website.

Comments and corrections

To comment, please scroll to the end of this report and add your thoughts there. To send us factual corrections, please contact us. We also discuss reports on our Ecclesiantics bulletin board.

© Ship of Fools