Save the date. On Saturday, March 15 the “Man Up Philly” Men’s Spirituality Conference will be held in Hagan Arena at St. Joseph’s University, and it promises to be a winner.

In its six years of existence the annual one-day Men’s Spirituality Conference has proven to be one of the most dynamic and successful outreach programs in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, with notable and nationally known speakers.

A resounding success during its earliest years, it lost some momentum in the  middle years and has come roaring back since it was taken over two years ago by lay-led Man Up Philly, a group whose initial ministry was parish-based Gospel reflection groups.

Last year saw 1,200 men attend the conference at Archbishop Ryan High School, up 20 percent from the previous year and this year is just as promising.

The group’s mission statement best explains what it is all about: “As Catholic men of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, we strive to make Jesus Christ present in our lives. Called together, we seek God’s grace to strengthen one another and grow in commitment to our Catholic faith. Equipped as witnesses of the Gospel, we serve our families and the Church.”

The secret of the conference’s success is two-fold – enlisting dynamic speakers and effective promotion in the parishes through bulletin inserts and in many cases a two-minute presentation from the pulpit.

Archbishop Charles Chaput will give the opening address and he will be followed by four lay men, a lay woman and an ordained permanent deacon.

After the archbishop the first speaker will be Timothy Donnelly, a Delaware County native who attended Malvern Preparatory School and served as a Special Forces member while in the U.S. Marines. He battled with substance abuse for years and eventually overcame it with God’s help.

Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a permanent deacon of the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, is a nationally sought-after speaker on issues of spirituality including men’s spirituality with a presence on television, radio and personal appearances. Mary Anne Layden, PhD, is a psychotherapist and director of education at the Center for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania, and director of the Sexual Trauma and Psychopathology program at Penn. She specializes in the treatment of sexual violence victims and perpetrators as well as sex addicts and those engaged in the sexual exploitation industry.

The first speaker in the afternoon will be David Abel of Elizabethtown, Pa., who along with his wife, Candace, established the Brittany’s Hope Foundation which aids in adoption and humanitarian efforts world-wide. They are the parents of 15 children of which 12 are adopted. The foundation honors the memory of their first adopted child, Brittany, who was killed in an automobile accident in her senior year of college.

The final speaker will be Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who has headed the Philadelphia Police Department since 2008, after service in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Although he is a nationally recognized expert on law enforcement, his topic will be his own faith journey.

The program will also include opportunity for the sacrament of reconciliation and will end with a 4 p.m. Mass celebrated by Msgr. Ralph J. Chieffo.

To register for the conference visit


Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.