Connie Perales, 72, has been named executive president for the Los Angeles Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Women (ACCW).
“I was a little overwhelmed to be asked,” Perales told The Tidings. “I feel very honored. I hope to be of service and to generate a love of our Blessed Mother and of Our Lord.” She added, “My term includes an executive board that I know will be very supportive.”
An active member of the organization since 1998, Perales previously served a two-year term as executive president in 2007. On Nov. 10, she will again became the head of the organization during the 65th annual conference.
The conference will feature keynote speaker Heather King, who will elaborate on the evening’s theme, “Living for Christ.” A Tidings columnist and published author, King is a convert to the Catholic faith. Her most recent book is “Stripped.”
Perales’ son Richard and his wife Doria will also attend the event. Her two sisters, Maria and Berta, will come with an old childhood friend, Sister Antonice Zozaya.
A member of Holy Family Church in Artesia, Perales says the ACCW helped her in her role as a wife and a mother of five children. Perales and her husband were very active in raising their children in the faith while also assisting their parish.
“The organization is a group of women mentoring other women,” said Perales. “They serve our Lord in various capacities, so it makes you want to participate and take action.
“In everything that we do, we try to do it for Christ, living for Christ in all the different roles that we have.”
The ACCW hosts many speakers who talk on theology, how to live as Catholics and how to fulfill one’s vocation in life.
Besides helping members stay educated in the faith, the organization hopes to influence culture by staying informed on social policies. ACCW committees oversee various concerns, including respect life, senior citizens and disabilities ministries. The committees ensure that members are informed so they can contact their legislators about policy concerns.
The ACCW has been interested in keeping voters informed on policies since its founding in 1923. In 1973, when Roe v. Wade was being debated in the U.S. Supreme Court, the women of the organization would call each other, reminding one another to notify legislators of their position. “They give us information so that we can make educated decisions,” Perales said.
Louise Meehan, chair of Respect Life, is responsible for the pro-life branch of the organization.
“She brings us all the legislative information regarding the issues. She gives us the information of what is coming up so that we can take action.”
The organization has helped Perales get through difficult times. When Leon, her husband of 50 years, died in 2013, the ACCW women offered their prayers and support.
“He had been sick for a while. And as we would meet once a month, the ladies would tell me that they were praying for my husband and praying for me.”
She added, “Several of them were able to come to the funeral — some of them traveled a good distance and they took time out of their schedule to come. And then afterwards, they were very supportive.”
Marilyn Mathers, 88, has been an active member of ACCW for 35 years. She serves as the communications chair. The mother of actor Jerry Mathers, who played Theodore Cleaver on “Leave It to Beaver,” Mathers found it difficult to educate her children in the faith after Vatican II, saying there was a lot of confusion caused by the changes it implemented. For example, “People didn’t want to talk about the devil,” she said. “And they said ‘bread’ instead of ‘Eucharist.’”
ACCW acted as a support system during that time, eventually leading her to good materials and books that helped her pass on the faith.
“The ACCW connects you with women who think like you do,” she said. “It helped to have a close network of real Catholic women.”
Perales says that it is important for women to get involved, “to serve in any way that they can, so that they can facilitate others coming to our Lord.”