By JIM GAUGER
Special to The CS&T
“Let us strengthen one another.” It is a simple phrase from Romans 14:19 that carries a powerful message. It is also the theme of the first Men’s Spirituality Conference sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia on Saturday, March 7, at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Springfield, Delaware County.
The conference begins with registration at 8:45 a.m. and includes morning and afternoon keynote addresses, plus two afternoon breakout sessions at three venues in the school. It concludes at 4 p.m. with Cardinal Justin Rigali celebrating Mass.
A committee of 25 men, led by Auxiliary Bishop Robert P. Maginnis, has worked five months to establish the conference. The idea came from men’s spiritual groups in the parishes, Bishop Maginnis said.
“They were laymen and they felt this was a good thing to do,” Bishop Maginnis explained. “There were also 12 priests who became involved and they felt the same as the men’s groups.” The time was ripe “for men’s spiritual needs” to be addressed, Bishop Maginnis added.
The breakout sessions look at opportunities in the home and the workplace where spirituality can be effective. “If you pray at the workplace it can help you make the right decisions, to be more charitable, more understanding. There are so many positive aspects,” Bishop Maginnis said.
The conference also has a strong link to the parishes. “There is a long tradition in the Catholic Church of faith-sharing groups,” said Dominic Lombardi, director of the archdiocesan Family Life Office. “The Holy Name Society, the Knights of Columbus – these groups help men support each other and live out their faith by becoming more active in the church.”
The morning keynote speaker is Marcus Grodi, host of the “Journey Home” program on EWTN. The keynote theme is “Men and Conversion.” Grodi is founder of Coming Home Network International, which offers support and encouragement to men and women curious about the Catholic faith.
The afternoon keynote speaker is former NFL quarterback Rich Gannon. Raised in St. Cecilia Parish and an alumnus of St. Joseph’s Prep, Gannon was a standout football player at the University of Delaware before heading to the NFL. His 18-year career was capped in 2003 when he led the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII in San Diego, Calif., where they lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gannon was named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player for the 2002 season. He is currently a sports analyst for CBS. Gannon will speak on “The Catholic Faith in My Life Journey.”
Of the keynoters, Bishop Maginnis said, “Marcus Grodi is a convert to our faith. He is a very fine speaker. Rich Gannon is a hometown boy. He will talk about how his faith determines the direction of his life.”
The evangelization of men in the Archdiocese is a movement that has picked up momentum in recent years, said Lombardi. “There is a wave of renewal of the Catholic faith,” he said, “for men to be more vital in their faith.” Breakout speakers in the morning sessions are Jim Rogers and Father Christopher Rogers, “Fathers and Sons: Embracing God’s Call;” Damon Owens, “Be Not Conformed to the World,” and Father Joseph Cummins, C.M., “Evangelizing the Word of God.”’ Father Cummins’ session will focus on the role of the Hispanic community in the Church.
Breakout speakers in the afternoon sessions are Eustace Mita, “Spirituality and the Workplace;” Marcus Grodi, “Spiritual Leadership in the Home;” and Andres Carrillo and Christian Arellano, “Spirituality in the Workplace and Home.”
A final session preceding the Cardinal’s Mass, led by Father Ralph Chieffo and former Flyers player Don Saleski, is named “Establishing a Faith Sharing Group.”
The registration fee, which includes lunch, is $25 per person. A family group rate (3 or more) is also available for $20 each. Capacity at Cardinal O’Hara is just over 1,900. For registration forms, go to http://archphila.org/evangelization/famlife/famlife.htm. E-mail: email@example.com. or call 215 587-5639 for more information.
Jim Gauger is a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Glenside, and a freelance writer.