One woman began her journey at the Evangelical Seminary of Puerto Rico. The other was welcomed by the UCC rather than wait for the Catholic Church to ordain women. Both have provided extraordinary service to congregational and wider church ministries and serve as an inspiration to other clergy women.
The Rev. Candita Bauzá-Mattos and the Rev. Julie Peeples were honored with the Antoinette Brown Award by the Women's Ministry of the UCC. The awards, presented during the UCC's General Synod 27, honors the Rev. Antoinette Brown Caldwell, the first woman ordained in the United States.
"How much we owe to Antoinette and all those who started the path" of clergy women, said Rev. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), who spoke at the luncheon. "What would Antoinette Brown think to see so many clergywomen in one room?"
Bauzá-Mattos has served as consultant to the Council of Hispanic Ministries and as Minister for Hispanic Relations in the Office of General Ministries. She also has served as a local church pastor and as Associate Conference Minister in the Southern California-Nevada Conference. “She has been a pillar of strength, courage and integrity through difficult circumstances throughout her ministry,” her nomination states. “She boldly broke the barriers of sexism and racism with grace and generosity, always modeling faithfulness and hope.”
In introducing her, the Rev. José Abraham de Jesús compared her to a shooting star. "Candita has been a star, always shining her light."
Bauzá-Mattos was humbled by the award, giving the credit all to God. "God took the initiative by calling my name and putting the challenges and possibilities in front of me."
Peeples is the senior minister at Congregational UCC, Greensboro, N.C. After seminary, she was a college campus minister and provided pastoral care for the Habitat of Humanity staff in Americus, Ga. She is active in her community serving the county mental health board, the city's family life council, and helps lead black/white clergy dialogue and interfaith dialogue.
Her nomination commends the many skills she brings to ministry. "Her wise guidance, her compassionate spirit, her firm grasp of the truth even in difficult situations, exemplifies the important role as model and mentor she provides to so many."
Irwin Smallwood, a member of her congregation, is grateful that "the United Church of Christ opened its arms to this daughter of the Roman Catholic church." In return, the UCC, he said, gained "a brilliant woman who has spent her life opening these same doors to countless others."