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By Vanessa Guillen Matheus

Reverend Carla E. Roland Guzmán, affectionately known to her community as Mother Carla, is the first Latina rector in the Episcopal Diocese of New York. She has served in the Diocese of New York since 2003 and at the Church of St. Matthew and St. Timothy in Manhattan since 2004.

“As a priest and rector, she is helping the Episcopal Church and LGBTQ organizations be more Latinx inclusive, and helping Latinx faith communities be more LGBTQ inclusive,” Elaine Romanelli, a colleague of Mother Carla’s, wrote in an email nominating the reverend for NBC Out’s #Pride30 list. “She does a lot of cross-over work among her identities. She starts from an open and curious place, and because everyone can identify with something about her ... it makes her a great bridge for connecting people who are initially uncomfortable to start having conversations and finding common ground.”

Mother Carla grew up in Puerto Rico, where she recently started raising funds to benefit communities affected by Hurricanes Irma and Maria through Meeting God on the Mountain Top, an organization that buys and distributes water filtration systems and solar panels to provide electricity to the island.

“The most agonizing days that I have ever experienced in my life were when I was in Scotland when Hurricane Maria hit the island,” Mother Carla recalled, noting she did not find out her family was OK until four days later.

Mother Carla said she has many fond memories of Puerto Rico, like the sounds of the Coquí, a local frog, and the sounds of a happy childhood. “Laughter and giggles with my big extended family, sitting in the balcony on 7th Street and Villa Nevarez, having arroz con habichuelas (rice and beans),” Mother Carla recalled with a smile.

Mother Carla said she grew up having many positive role models, and they served as her inspiration.

“We have strong women in our family. We don’t have money, but education is huge,” she explained, noting her grandmother and great aunt both have post-graduate degrees.

Mother Carla has followed in their footsteps, earning a bachelor's degree in engineering from Cornell University, a Master of Divinity from the Church Divinity School of the Pacific, a Master of Arts in church history from the Graduate Theological Union and, most recently, a doctorate in theology from the University of Exeter.

Mother Carla is currently writing a book on Latinx clergy in the Episcopal Church, which is due to come out in 2019.

What does "pride" mean to you?

“Pride for me is growing into and being and living as the person that God has made me be. And, I hope that everyone gets to be in that place as a child of God, knowing that they are loved, included, that they are just as a welcome and held up as any of another person in this church and every Episcopal church. That’s what we have to do, and that is what we are called to do. That is pride. Amen.”

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