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Central PA's LGBT News Source

Former RNC chair Michael Steele

Breaking it down, laying it out


Michael Steele resembles the men around me growing up. They were resolute about quietly helping others. And then they shut up. It was part of their foundational values to humbly do the right thing. No selfies allowed. References to helping others, a civic duty taught to children by example, were quietly called out.

Walking home one evening after a St. Vincent de Paul Society meeting, I was an excited 10-year-old. A carpenter would go over to a buddy’s house and repair a leaky roof. My uncle put his finger to his lips, explaining that one doesn‘t talk about who gets help or who provided it. Human dignity is sacred, he told me in his own way.

The Society’s purpose is for members to grow spiritually by offering person-to-person service to those in need. That doesn’t mean one racks up points by helping. Not that kind of growth. Rather, the growth comes from showing up, assessing and then acting.

Steele is all about taking action.

“We cannot walk away from one another,” Steele told 50 people in Lancaster April 30 as part of CHI – St. Joseph Children’s Health public speaker series. The organization is

“Dedicated to improving the health of children and families,” according to their web site. Perhaps Steele learned the importance of not walking away when he was adopted as an infant.

Speaking to him by telephone the day before his local appearance, Steele explained how he came to his blend of personal and political values.

He spent three years preparing for the Catholic priesthood but left to enter civil service. Speaking onstage he told of pulling up to the seminary in a yellow car he loved. He was asked to turn over the keys. Later, he understood that his resource was for the good of all and not just for him. The same as a community’s resources.

“What I learned while in seminary is foundational to who I am,” Steele explained. “We’re bound to one another,” he said.

His example involved corporate audiences.

“I ask folks Who got up this morning, looked in the mirror and said All I want to be today is poor? No one ever raises their hand. Then I ask why they may think poor people do just that. They don’t. They need our help.” Steele broadens his message to include “other,” the current political term used to indicate Not like me.

Enter CHI

“Our goal is to serve as a supportive voice and companion on their path to growing up healthy and happy,” CEO/President Phil Goropoulos tells Central Voice. Currently CHI operates a Lancaster-based Behavioral Health Centerand Healthy Columbia(in Columbia, PA). Soon they will complete a ribbon-cutting ceremony for St. John Neumann School for Children and Families, scheduled to open in 2020.

Historically, three congregations of Women Religious brought together their respective health systems to form Catholic Health Initiatives in 1996 that is now a nationwide network. Such networks and community efforts all stripes can produce “concrete signs of mercy,” Steel notes.

Bringing together his religious and political beliefs, Steele extolled his attentive audience, which included many regular MSNBC viewers, to focus on what they value. To stay engaged.

“We are a self-governing people,” he stressed, adding “only we can decide what we want in our own communities.”

Too tempting not to ask, audience questions reflected the current Trump versus the world show playing out in all media formats. Summarizing his thoughts Steele thinks the Charlottesville shooting was an inflection point in the national psyche. “I think the country responded by saying what took place there does represent what this nation is all about. By saying That’s not who we are.”

“We all must stay engaged,” he concluded.