Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, For 25 years, parishioners of West Baltimore's New All Saints Roman Catholic Congregation have gathered for a Mass and breakfast honoring the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the tradition continued yesterday when speakers including Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele shared fellowship and home-style food with hundreds of members.
"It represents true brotherhood and sisterhood," said Catherine Adams, 72, a lifelong member who was baptized and married at the church.
"The fact that we can come together and celebrate the life of a man who believed so strongly in that very thing ... we're honored as a parish," Adams said.
Although the event has long been a New All Saints favorite, members of the mostly black congregation said that this year's breakfast was especially significant because of Steele's presence and his stature as Maryland's first African-American lieutenant governor.
Steele, a corporate securities lawyer, was elected to the office in 2002 and is the first African-American to hold a statewide office in Maryland.
"It means that we have made some progress in the area of race relations," churchgoer Dolores Street said of Steele's January 2003 inauguration.
While chatting over eggs, hash browns and juice with family and friends, Street said that, like King, Steele is a pioneer who serves as a good role model for all people - though especially for young black people.
Steele reflected briefly on his position, although he focused his keynote address on the ways in which everyday people can carry on the work of the slain civil rights leader.
"The dream of Dr. King lives in every one of us," he said, encouraging those in attendance to "not just talk about the hope of real opportunity and a hope of freedom, but to do ... something positive that relates to the dream."
After listening to gospel music and excerpts of King's most famous speeches, the lieutenant governor told parishioners that he was proud to take part in the annual event, saying it's a proper commemoration of King's life and legacy.
Afterward, Steele added: "It's not a shopping day. It's about how we've ... made strides as a people."