Rev. Catherine Brooks, a Pioneering Spirit in Unity

By Rev. Jackie Hawkins
Rev. Catherine Brooks

When the founder of Unity Temple of Truth set out to pioneer a church that focused on the spiritual needs of African-Americans, she understood it was hers to follow the guidance of Spirit.

It was hers to tap in to the inner wisdom that said, Catherine Brooks, you have been called to serve as a Unity minister; there are people who are hungry and need to be fed. You possess the spiritual resources to feed them as only you can.

In the 1940s Catherine Brooks was part of a Unity study group in St. Petersburg, Florida, with people who would play key roles in supporting her spiritual vision.

There was much that had to be changed in her life for her to bring this divine dream into manifestation, but as scripture says in Luke 12:31, “Strive for his kingdom, and all things will be given to you as well.” 

Beyond Study Group: Rev. Brooks’ Challenge to Lead

Rev. Brooks and her husband, James, also a member of the study group, accepted the changes that began to stir within her even before she became a minister. One of the first was becoming the leader of the Jordan Park Unity Study Group in March 1956 when Mamie Hughes, the group’s leader, became ill.

This leadership role continued when, several months later, Mamie Hughes died. In her will, she left a parcel of land at 511 Prescott Street in St. Petersburg designated as the building site for a new church. 

It is unclear whether the designation in Mamie Hughes’ will expanded Catherine’s vision, but shortly thereafter she began her formal ministerial training. She understood that some people would think she had no business believing she could do what she was being called to do, but she followed her guidance anyway with her husband’s full support. 

From Garage to Temple: Building a Spiritual Home

In January 1957, Catherine and her husband launched a building campaign as they held Sunday services in their garage and continued to pray for the work of spirit.

In the beginning, there was little outside help, but as time passed, more assistance came, including the land that had been designated in Mamie Hughes’ will to build a church, the skills to build the church, and the finances as well. 

As the saying goes, “If you build it, they will come.” The children, the young adults, and the community came. They had been hungry, and here they were fed spiritually. 

In November 1957, construction on the church was completed and Unity Temple of Truth was officially registered and recognized by the Association of Unity Churches with Catherine Brooks as its spiritual leader.

However, it was not until June 1960 that Catherine Brooks was ordained as a Unity minister. In the intervening years, she continued to take the required courses for ministerial training, traveling to Unity Village, Missouri, to do so. In fact, records in the Unity Archives show that during the 1958 August term, Catherine Brooks lived in the same cottage where Rev. Johnnie Coleman had lived in 1957.

A Call to Community Leadership

A tribute to Catherine Brooks published in the St. Petersburg Times said, “Catherine was dean of black women ministers. She not only blessed members of the congregation; she reached out into the community. Catherine started with children. James, her husband of 55 years, built wooden benches and put them in the garage. Each Sunday she had Sunday School for the children. When it was cold, she brought them into her home ...”

Rev. Catherine Brooks listened to her inner wisdom to guide her and her husband to found and build Unity Temple of Truth, which was dedicated in 1957. As a result, hundreds, if not thousands, of African-Americans in the Tampa Bay area have been led to and sustained by Unity principles.


Rev. Jackie HawkinsRev. Jackie Hawkins served as senior minister of Unity of the Heartland in Olathe, Kansas. She graduated from Unity Institute and Seminary with a master’s degree in divinity and was ordained in 2013. She has taught workshops and seminars on the prosperity teachings of Charles Fillmore and Eric Butterworth and on compassion and leadership. Prior to ministry, Rev. Jackie had a long career in New York State government in human resources management and administration. Rev. Jackie has a graduate degree from the State University of New York at Albany and an undergraduate degree from Western Michigan University and attended Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.