Villa Maria College, founded by the Felician Sisters, provides students a rigorous and enriching educational experience.
Mission and Values
Offering academic programs with a broad core curriculum, the College transforms and empowers students to realize their intellectual, creative, professional, and spiritual potential.
Inspired by a welcoming Catholic tradition and a dynamic Franciscan spirit, Villa Maria College offers individual attention and fosters compassion, justice, peace, respect for human dignity and a commitment to service. Mission integration simply means living out the mission at both the organizational and individual levels. Our Mission Integration Committee directs activities related to integrating the mission at the organizational level. The committee plans and coordinates experiences that encourage the participation of our College community in living out our mission.
About Felician Sisters
The Felician Sisters began as a community in 1855 in Poland under Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska. They profess vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience and follow the evangelical way set forth by Saint Francis of Assisi. The aim of the community is to cooperate with Christ in the spiritual renewal of the world by providing education, social service, and health care to the poor and needy.
In 1874, five Felician Sisters arrived in the United States and settled in Polonia, Wisconsin, where they staffed a parish school. The community grew and, in 1881, the sisters were sent to Buffalo where they ministered at Saint Stanislaus parish.
In 1900, Buffalo became the second province to be established in the United States and was known as Immaculate Heart of Mary Province. The sisters moved throughout the Diocese of Buffalo and beyond, staffing many schools, institutions and parishes.
Today there are nearly 2,000 sisters worldwide.
About Blessed Mary Angela Truszkowska
Sophia Camille Truszkowska (1825-1899) was born in Kalisz, Poland into a noble family. When Sophia was a young child, her parents instilled in her the virtues of piety, social justice and charity.
Over the years, Sophia developed a passion for working with the poor and eventually joined the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and became a lay member of the Franciscan Third Order. She, along with her cousin Clothilde, began to minister to the sick and destitute of Warsaw and eventually founded the Institute of Sophia Truszkowska.
On November 21,1855, Sophia, who took the name of Mary Angela together with her cousin Clothilde, forged a new religious community steeped in the values and ideals of St. Francis of Assisi. This community eventually became known as the Felician Sisters. Mary Angela would led the community until 1869 and spent the remaining years of her life in humble prayer and service.
Mary Angela was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 18, 1993, and given the title Blessed. To learn more about the Blessed Mary Angela and the Felician Sisters, visit feliciansistersna.org.
About Saint Felix of Cantalice
Saint Felix of Cantalice, whose name the Felician Sisters adopted, was born in 1513 in Cantalice, a little village not far from Rome. He was a shepherd and a farm laborer before becoming a Capuchin lay brother at nearby Citta Ducale Monastery in Anticoli, and became noted for his austerities and piety.
In 1549 he was sent to Rome and with his joyful countenance and thankful “Deo Gratias” spoken to everyone he met, Felix the Questor became a familiar figure in Rome. He was known and revered by many for carrying his sack to receive donations for the order, and aiding the sick and the poor. To learn more about St. Felix of Cantalice, visit americancatholic.org.
We imitate the joy, simplicity, and “Deo Gratias” of Saint Felix of Cantalice whose name Divine Providence has chosen for our Congregation. His life exemplifies for us the gift of integrating the spirit of contemplation with our apostolic involvement. –“Response to love.”
Constitutions of the Felician Sisters
About Saint Francis of Assisi
Francis was born into a family of well-to-do cloth merchants in Assisi, Italy, and enjoyed a position of privilege during his youth. However, serious illness led him to reevaluate his life and priorities.
A dramatic conversion then followed when he experienced the crucified Christ calling out to him to “rebuild his church.” Francis followed this call not only literally, but also figuratively. He renounced his materially driven life and reached out to the poor and outcasts of his world.
While reviled by many, Francis nonetheless led a life of prayer, simplicity, poverty, joy and service to those in need. He lived a radical life in total imitation of Jesus Christ. He attracted many followers and eventually wrote a rule of life to guide this new movement aimed at living the Gospel fully and completely.
To learn more about the life of Saint Francis, visit americancatholic.org.
Prayer of Saint Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
Lord, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
1960: Mother Mary Annette Guzowski and the Felician Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Province open a teacher-training center for sisters in the education apostolate.
1961: The Center secures a provisional charter from the Board of Regents of the State of New York to grant associate’s degrees in Arts and Applied Science to women religious and begins operating as Villa Maria College of Buffalo.
1965: The charter is extended to include laywomen who wished to pursue an associate’s degree.
1968: The College is granted an absolute charter and is recognized as a co-ed institution.
1972: The College becomes fully accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
1978: Sister Marcella Marie Garus is appointed as the third president of the College.
1987: The College establishes the Sister Mary Josette food pantry, the first food pantry to be located at a college in Western New York.
2005: The absolute charter is amended to offer a bachelor of fine arts degree in Interior Design.
2008: Three new bachelor’s degree programs are added in Animation; Fashion Design and Merchandising; and Music & Music Industry.
2010: The College celebrates 50 years.
2014: Visionary plan begins.
2014: The College adds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.
2015: The Vikings return, relaunching intercollegiate athletics after a nearly 30-year hiatus.
2015: Bachelor’s degrees added in Digital Filmmaking and Digital Media & Communications.
2015: A new associate’s degree added for Occupational Therapist Assistants. 2015: The Achieve Program for students with learning differences launches. 2015: Villa goes digital and offers its first online class.
2017: For the second consecutive year, Villa Maria College named a Best Place to Work by Buffalo Business First.
2018: Accreditation is reaffirmed by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
2018: Sister Marcella Marie Garus retires in June after 40 years of service as president.
2019: In February, degrees added in Game Design and Computer Software Development.
2019: In March, Dr. Matthew Giordano is appointed as the College’s fourth president.
50 Years of Service - Sister Marcella Marie Garus, CSSF
While studying at the University of Detroit in 1968, Sister Marcella Marie Garus, CSSF received a request from her provincial minister to serve as the business administrator at Villa Maria College. Ten years later, in August of 1978, the Board of Trustees appointed her the third president of the College.
During her 40 year tenure as president, Sister Marcella committed herself to bettering the lives of individuals through education and has remained steadfastly dedicated in her pursuit to help students from all backgrounds achieve a college education. A strong, strategic planner she has led the College to meet several significant milestones, including its transition from a two-year school to a baccalaureate granting institution, re-accreditation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and expanding study abroad opportunities. In addition, President Garus played a pivotal role in updating the College’s infrastructure and providing students with off-campus housing options.
As one of the longest-serving presidents in the area, and in all of higher education in America today, Sister Marcella has proven herself to be an incredibly hard working leader who has personally devoted herself to Villa Maria College and its mission for 5 decades.
After 50 years of faithful service to Catholic higher education in Western New York, the College community reflects back on the accomplishments and leadership of Sister Marcella.
A Leader Through the Decades
Sister Marcella led the College as it celebrated 25 to 50 years as an institution. Throughout these years, she remained committed to mission integration and the promotion of the Felician Franciscan values, led all of the fundraising efforts of the College, raising millions of dollars to benefit students, and modernized the College’s administration.
Improving Our Offerings
During Sister Marcella’s tenure as president, the College transformed from an Associates to Bachelor’s degree granting institution, adding 6 associates degrees and 14 Bachelor’s degrees.
Living the Mission
Under Sister Marcella Villa Maria College opened the first community food pantry to be housed on a college campus. The Sister Mary Josette Food Pantry recently celebrated 30 years of service to Villa Maria College and the surrounding community of the Buffalo’s East Side. Originally serving around 26 households every month, the food pantry’s reach has grown to serve nearly 350 households. From 2016-2017, the food pantry has supplied meals to 10,641 individuals, which includes over sixty Villa Maria students.
Award Winning Presidency
Sister Marcella was the recipient of numerous awards including: the Bishop’s Medal for Catholic Education in 2006, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education, and New York State Senate Women of Distinction award in 2009, the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities Higher Education Leadership Award, the Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce Appreciation Award, and the Am-Pol Eagle Citizen of the Year Award and voted Best Places to Work by Buffalo Business First in 2015 and 2017.
A Vision for the Future
In 2014, President Garus launched the visionary plan that laid the foundation for Villa Maria College to become the premier student-centered institution in Western New York. As a result, the College relaunched intercollegiate athletics, enhanced student support, started the Achieve Program fro Students with Learning Differences, and started new academic programs in Occupational Therapy Assistant, Digital Filmmaking, and Digital Media and Communication. Since 2014, the College has experienced a 30% growth in enrollment and nearly 10% increase in retention.
Sister Marcella was instrumental in the construction of the Art Shop and the St. Joseph Memorial Walkway. During her presidency, the Saint John Paul II statue was erected and the College acquired its Athletic Center, Felician Hall, and St. Francis Residence. In addition, the Paul William Beltz Family Art Gallery was redone, a magnificent stained glass window was installed in the library, the front entrance and foyer of the Main Building received face lifts, the recital hall underwent a major renovation, and the athletic facilities were updated to include state-of-the-art equipment and a new weight room.
Living the Mission
Villa Maria College offers a holistic education that prepares graduates to take their place in the world outside of our walls. Members of our faculty are professionals in their field and do far more than teach a subject. They prepare students to join them as colleagues. Intellectual inquiry, respect for diversity, and a commitment to service are reinforced and modeled across our curriculum. Graduates of Villa Maria College are prepared to contribute to their community and become life-long learners.
Service Learning is an instructional method that strengthens classroom learning by creating opportunities within the formal curriculum and the co-curriculum for students to participate in and reflect upon community service. At Villa Maria College, we believe that students should understand the value of and participate in service throughout their professional, personal and community-based endeavors.
We Believe that Service Learning:
- Reflects the Franciscan spirit of Villa Maria College’s mission.
- Enhances and enriches the collegiate learning experience.
- Provides opportunities for active learning, practical application, evaluation and analysis of theoretical classroom concepts.
- Allows students to practice organizational leadership, individual caring, social responsibility and community building skills necessary for life-long success.
- Promotes friendships among fellow students sharing a common vision of social consciousness and compassion.
Service Learning Requirments:
All students enrolled at Villa Maria College must complete Service-Learning experiences. Service Learning in the form of a fall or spring service day is required of all students in CORE 101 and CORE 401. Transfer students who are not required to take either of the above courses must participate in one service day in either the fall or spring semester. All Service-Learning requirements are designed in support of Villa Maria College’s mission and core values.
Sister Mary Josette Food Pantry
The Sister Mary Josette Food Pantry is a major project sponsored by the Office of Mission and Campus Ministry. The food pantry opened in 1986 in compassionate response to student need. Gradually the pantry has expanded its services to over 1,000 individuals in the local community each month. Hours of operation are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, 10 AM-3 PM. The pantry is in the lower level of the Music Building. “Preserve among yourselves a unity, peace, love and kindness. Practice toward one another gentleness, understanding and cooperation.” – Blessed Mary Angela
Mission Matters Newsletters for Staff
Our Core Values
From these ideals flow our core values which are intrinsic to all that happens at Villa Maria College.
Respect for Human Dignity: We practice the value of respect for human dignity by exhibiting our reverence for and commitment to promoting and protecting the dignity of all persons.
Compassion: We practice the value of compassion by exhibiting an empathetic consciousness toward others expressed in caring service.
Transformation: We practice the value of transformation by having an open mind and heart; this leads to continuous improvement of all involved in our ministry.
Solidarity With the Poor: We practice the value of solidarity with the poor by ensuring the needs of the poor and vulnerable are met through advocacy and action.
Justice and Peace: We practice the values of justice and peace by forging right relationships, recreating a sustainable environment, and promoting the common good – all in the pursuit of peace.
Our Core Ideals
The seal of Villa Maria College is a graphic representation of the foundation upon which the College rests. The Holy Spirit, the Source of Eternal Wisdom, hovers above the triangle upon which are inscribed in Latin the ideals of the College:
Veritas – Truth
The ideal of truth is demonstrated and fostered by the values of honesty, objectivity, consistency and respect for diversity.
Caritas – Charity
The ideal of charity is demonstrated and fostered by the values of service, dignity, respect and social responsibility.
Unitas – Unity
The ideal of unity is demonstrated and fostered by the values of equity, sensitivity and collaboration.
Within the triangle symbolizing the Most Holy Trinity is the Immaculate Heart of Mary as depicted in the Seal of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice. The crossed arms of Christ and St. Francis of Assisi symbolize the Franciscan Rule of the Third Order Regular, with the Eucharistic Host placed upon the Cross depicting the Eucharistic and penitential character of the Felician Congregation.
The Latin inscription encircling these symbols reads: “Seal of Villa Maria College of Buffalo, New York” and includes the chartering date (1961) of the college.
Join the family.
There’s a lot of pressure to know what’s next. We’re here to say, it’s OK if you’re still figuring it out. In fact, it’s great. Villa is a place where that kind of continual discovery is prized. Because going to college isn’t about having it all figured it out. It’s about inventing who you’re going to become. You’ll see.