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Life as a Catholic Lawyer in SoCal

An Interview With Ariana Perfecto

“Catholic leadership is Catholic because it seeks to serve God and others; it is not about me. Rather than treating people as commodities or as a means to an end, Catholic leadership recognizes and respects the dignity of each person.”

We recently caught up with Ariana Perfecto. Originally from San Diego, Perfecto is an attorney in Southern California. She sits on the board for Tepeyac Leadership and recently joined the board for the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders. At only 31, Perfecto has been very successful in the legal field and is an up-and-coming leader in the SoCal community. She is also a graduate of Tepeyac Leadership Initiative. Here’s what she shared with The Catholic Professional.

Please start by sharing with our readers a little about yourself. Be sure to include your background and the things that matter the most for you.

I am a Catholic lawyer living and working in beautiful Southern California. I live with my younger sister in a small apartment where we still somehow hardly see each other because of how busy we are! I had an idyllic childhood growing up in Chula Vista, California (a city of San Diego near the US-Mexico Border), as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. It was idyllic because even though we had very few economic resources and no support system, we had each other, and we had our Catholic faith. No matter what challenges my family faced, my parents always trusted that God would provide for us and protect us; we only needed to work hard, and God would handle the rest. Unsurprisingly, I am now a bit of a workaholic! I work hard because of my love for my family and for God.

On the right corner, Perfecto poses with a group of ladies from the TLI network at a social gathering in Southern California.

Going through TLI, what was the most impactful aspect of the program for you?

I graduated from the first TLI Los Angeles Cohort in June 2020 and joined the TLI West Advisory Board in July 2020. The most impactful aspect of the TLI program was that it taught me the power of the Catholic laity and in turn, helped me to discover a passion for Catholic leadership. We have all made the mistake of believing that only the clergy have a role to play in politics and culture. This is due in large part to the fact that most of us are not taught about Catholic leadership and the vital role that the laity plays in bringing Christ to an increasingly Christ-less society. TLI’s mission is to empower Catholic professionals through education and opportunity to step up to the leadership role that they are called to fulfill. TLI was the beginning of this journey for me.

Tell us about your career. How is life as a Catholic lawyer?

I have been practicing in the area of Trusts and Estates for five years. I specialize in multi-generational estate and tax planning for high-net-worth clients. I have been very blessed in my career because the Lord has always kept me close to the Church. During my five-year career, I have served as an attorney advisor to the Planned Giving Department of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Orange Catholic Foundation (OCF). I have had the opportunity to meet and work with Catholics throughout Los Angeles and Orange County, and the professionals at the Archdiocese and the OCF have become my close friends and mentors.

I am very much a Catholic lawyer! I challenge myself every day to not shy away from sharing my Catholic faith with others in small ways – it takes practice! When I set up my new desk at the law firm that I joined in April of this year, I put out my Rosary and my statue of Mary. When I meet with other professionals for lunch, I make the sign of the cross and pray before I eat. I tell people at the office that I will pray for them, and I invite my co-workers to various Catholic events. I get responses such as, “Thank you for doing that!” and “Are you Catholic? So am I!” People are still predominantly religious in this country; they just need to feel comfortable enough to share.

Perfecto shares with a group of Catholic professionals at a recent retreat, sponsored by the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders

We know you've been involved with the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders. Could you tell us about this organization? What does it mean to you and what is the vision behind it?

I recently had the honor of joining the National Board of the Catholic Association of Latino Leaders (CALL). CALL was founded in 2007 by Archbishop Gomez and Archbishop Chaput to provide spiritual formation for Catholic Latino leaders throughout Los Angeles County. In 2022, under its new Executive Director, Rosie Chinea-Shawver, MDiv, CALL started a new membership tier for young adults. CALL has created a welcoming community for young Latino professionals who desire a deeper understanding of the faith, friendships with other young Catholics, professional mentorship, and good-old fashioned fun at social events like the Malibu Wine Tour and beach bonfires.

Young Catholics professionals especially need the community that CALL offers. Life only becomes more complicated, and our careers only become more demanding, so we need an anchor to keep us grounded and remind us that a life centered around Christ is what our hearts truly desire. Many young Catholics desire to practice their faith, but do not know where to begin. I have seen CALL serve as that starting point.

What does it mean to be a Catholic leader?

St. Josemaria Escriva once said, “Professional work is also an apostolate, an opportunity to give ourselves to others, to reveal Christ to them and lead them to God the Father.” For me, this is what it means to be a Catholic leader. Catholic leadership is Catholic because it seeks to serve God and others; it is not about me. Rather than treating people as commodities or as a means to an end, Catholic leadership recognizes and respects the dignity of each person. The goal is to get to heaven, and to get the people around you to heaven.

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