PROVIDENCE — Sen. Harold Metts, retired educator, resident of Providence and deacon at Congdon Street Baptist Church, never expected to be honored with a Lumen Gentium Award from the Diocese of Providence.
“I was shocked. A Baptist deacon being honored by the Catholic Church!” he said during a recent interview.
Despite differences in faith, however, Metts is a strong ally of the Church at the Rhode Island State House, where, first as a representative and then as a senator, he has worked closely with the Rhode Island Catholic Conference to pursue legislation that reflects a respect for life in all its stages and forms. Metts has also proven himself in the community, where his advocacy for youth, minorities and the poor reflect his commitment to shared Christian values, earning him recognition as a Friend of the Diocese.
“Throughout his career in public service Senator Metts has been a staunch promoter of a consistent ethic of life,” said Father Bernard Healey, director of the Rhode Island Catholic Conference. “He has consistently sponsored and supported legislation that defends the unborn, protects the rights of the poor, the elderly and immigrants and aims at criminal justice reform.”
Metts said his faith started early in life, when his mother and grandmother served as important influences. As a child, he attended Christ Temple Sunday School on Wadsworth Street in Providence, where he gained a strong foundation in Christian teaching.
“That’s where it started,” he said. “I can remember the song, ‘I will make you fishers of men.’ The seed had been planted early.”
He pursued a degree in business but later went into education, serving as vice principal and basketball coach at Central High School, where Providence College basketball coach Ed Cooley was a member of his team. Eventually, he ran for the Rhode Island General Assembly, and quickly gained a reputation as a staunch supporter of life and someone who didn’t back down from his values.
“The thing I’m proudest of is the respect I have of my colleagues, even though they don’t agree with me on a lot of issues,” he said. “They respect me because I stand up for what I believe.”
The senator said that though he respects the separation of church and state, he does not think people of faith should be afraid to let their religious values influence their decisions. He participates regularly in a nonpartisan bible study group called Capitol Ministries and is glad for the support of Bishop Tobin and other religious figures who speak out against injustices. He also draws strength from scripture, reading Proverbs 3:5–6 before entering the State House each day.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” he read from the book of psalms and proverbs he keeps in his pocket. “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
In addition to scripture, Metts is grateful for the support of his wife and family, including his three children and seven grandchildren.