From stay-at-home mom to boundless Catholic outreach
AMONG NEWEST BOARD MEMBERS, PRIORITIZED FAMILY FIRST AMID OTHER CALLINGS
Berni Neal, among the newest members of Legatus’ board of governors, jokes that she and her husband, Rob, flipped a coin to see who would stay home when they decided to raise their family on one income.
“I won the coin toss, and I got to stay home with the kids,” said Berni Neal, 57, who left a careerin corporate marketing and advertising to raise the couple’s two then-young children, who are both adults now.
In that career transition, Neal began using her professional skills to benefit the nonprofit sector, particularly organizations involved in evangelization and forming Catholics in their faith. She sits on a number of boards, including those for Thomas Aquinas College, the Catholic Leadership Institute, and the Obria Group, a nonprofit aimed at creating a brand of pro-life health clinics.
Neal and her husband are also members of the Papal Foundation and Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter. In a recent interview with Legatus magazine, she discussed her faith life, her nonprofit work, and her hopes for Legatus’ future.
To what do you attribute your vibrant Catholic faith?
I credit the fact that my parents gave me the name Bernadette, although I go by Berni. I always had an affinity for St. Bernadette, and felt very connected to her. I think that’s the gift of giving a child a Catholic name. As I grew up, I always felt this connection to St. Bernadette and to my Catholic faith.
What prompted your family’s desire to switch from a dual income to a single income household?
Like many families, once we had children, we attempted to be a two-income household with childcare, and quickly realized that that was not the way we wanted to raise our children. It was not easy at first. But in retrospect, Rob and I never regretted that decision. If anything, we see the fruits of it, now more than ever, in that I think our children have a different perspective and sense of place in the world.
How did you get involved in the nonprofit world and in Catholic evangelization?
I had capability that I brought with me from my professional experience that could be offered for the Church. So this was a wonderful opportunity to share what talents I had in regard to the Church and in the non-profit environment, and also to be an example to my children. While my foremost priority was to be a wife and mother to my children, I also looked for opportunity to envelop service to Our Lord, to our faith, and to our community — as part of the fabric of who we were as a family.
How long have you and Rob been members of Legatus?
Since around 1999. It’s been an amazing time. Rob and I both credit Legatus as being one of the key turbo boosts for our faith. Legatus as a community fortifies our resolve. The Legatus meetings allow us to lock arms with the Church Militant and then the Legatus Summit is that annual vaccine that allows us to prepare for the year ahead.
What are your duties as a member of Legatus’ board of governors? What are your goals in that role?
I serve in a general position on the board. My personal hope is to focus on the growth of Legatus nationwide because it’s been such an important thing in my life, my husband’s life, and my faith life. Second, I want to make sure there are new and younger members who see the validity and importance of Legatus. And third, I want to strengthen the idea of an internship program for Legatus.
Why a Legatus internship program?
I think an opportunity to provide our membership’s children and grandchildren with opportunities to work for these incredible Legatus members can only be a win-win. I want our children to work for the kind of people who have the kind of ethics, faith, and virtues that can be strengthened and carried forth into the business environment.