Men's Spirituality Conference

Approximately 700 men gathered for last year’s Men’s Spirituality Conference, but organizers are anticipating a turn-out of around 1,200 this year.

The fourth annual Men’s Spirituality Conference, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is breaking new ground.

“We have an incredible group of speakers with compelling stories, and, for the first time, we are having a woman speaker,” said Dominic Lombardi, director of the archdiocesan Family Life Office. That person is Immaculee IIibagiza, a survivor of the 1994 Rwandan genocide who will speak of “her miraculous transition into forgiveness and a profound relationship with God.”

According to her web site, her book, “Left to Tell” has sold more than 250,000 copies worldwide and was made into a documentary, and through her “Left to Tell Charitable Fund,” has raised more than $150,000 for the orphans of Rwanda.

The 2012 Men’s Spirituality Conference, whose theme is “Strengthen One Another,” will be held Saturday, March 3 at Archbishop Ryan High School in Northeast Philadelphia. The conference’s goal is to bring men into “the active life of the Church,” Lombardi said.

The first spirituality conference was held in 2009 with an attendance of 1,100 at Cardinal O’Hara High School in Delaware County. The next year the conference was moved to Ryan — a larger facility — with a turnout of 1,300, the largest so far. Last year, attendance was down to 700, but Lombardi anticipates the numbers to rebound to 1,200 this year.

A core group of 400 men is the anchor for the turnout, he said. These men range in age from late 20s to 30s; men in their 40s and 50s comprise the largest group.

Besides IIibagiza, other speakers include Tony Melendez, a musician who was born without arms and plays the guitar with his feet; Tim Staples, the director of apologetics and evangelization for Catholic Answers in El Cajon, Calif.; Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, founder and director of, a Christian evangelization and apologetics organization; and Father J. Brian Bransfield, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia who is the associate general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The conference will conclude with a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Charles Chaput at 2:30 p.m. Melendez will perform a musical concert the following day, Sunday, March 4 at Ryan at 5 p.m.

“The health and future of the Church,” Lombardi said, “will require both men and women who are deeply rooted in their faith, seeking to evangelize others. We are calling men to make a deeper commitment, to go and carry out the mission of the Church in their lives.”

Registration information is available at the conference’s newly expanded web site: Tickets are $35 (lunch included), $25 if ordered by Feb. 8. For information, call 484-278-1036.

Jim Gauger is a member of St. Luke the Evangelist Parish, Glenside, and a freelance writer.