Dan White is no stranger to the inside of a church, having designed many of them in his career as an architect and serving in several of them as an emcee, acolyte, and sacristan for close to 30 years.
But as a permanent deacon, White will take on a different role in the sanctuary — as a proclaimer of the Gospel, a preacher of the homily, and as a presider at baptisms and weddings.
White is one of 10 men ordained as permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles on June 10 at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. Archbishop José H. Gomez presided at the ordination of the men (nine married, one single), who join more than 400 permanent deacons currently serving in the archdiocese.
In his homily, Archbishop Gomez reminded the new deacons that Jesus calls them “to be leaders in love, just as the first deacons were.”
“The steps you walk in now are his steps,” he said to them. “The will you follow now is not your own.”
The new deacons have completed five years of formation through the archdiocesan Office of Diaconate Formation, a process that began by attending one of four “Virtual Information Days” offered throughout the year. This event offers men and, if married, their wives an overview of the diaconate, including the formation process and the responsibilities and expectations of a deacon.
For White, whose parish is St. John Vianney Church in Hacienda Heights, part of the appeal of becoming a permanent deacon was knowing he could do this important ministry with his wife, Amy, a licensed occupational therapist.
“We saw we could do this ministry together as a couple,” White said. “That was a surprise and a blessing, because it was very important to us.
“That’s all part of God’s will.”
Todd Sanders, who with his wife, Lesley, has served in multiple ministries at St. Rose of Lima Church in Simi Valley, felt especially called to help people of the greater community to encounter the love of Christ, especially the poor and the marginalized.
“As I grow into my role as a deacon,” he said, “God will provide for encounters with people in need, and help me to know how to intercede for them.”
As the only single man being ordained as a permanent deacon, Douglas Ernesto Zuniga Moncada never seriously considered priesthood or the diaconate even as he threw himself into parish ministry at Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church in Sun Valley shortly after emigrating from Nicaragua to the United States in 1989.
He’s been a catechist, headed the music ministry, been a religious education coordinator, and St. Vincent de Paul food bank volunteer because he “felt an interior call to dedicate my life to the service of God in his Church.”
As a single man, he admits to not knowing at first how he would relate to the other married men in his diaconate class.
“The formation years I shared with nine wonderful married couples allowed me to learn from their experiences, from their particular gifts and charisms,” Zuniga said. “Their stories helped me gain an understanding of what it means to be married and the different situations they face as parents and grandparents.”
For Rafael Aviña of Sacred Heart Church in Lancaster, the faith formation that he went through with his wife, Laura, helped him gain a more personal and deeper understanding of his faith and history of the Church.
“I was also enlightened in the many aspects of spirituality and how God acts in our lives,” Aviña said.
“I believe the formation process has prepared me to be a servant leader opening up doors to serve the community in ministries in the social life of the Church.”
However they were called, the ordination was a moment both joyous and humbling for all the newly ordained, as they absorbed not only the Rite of Ordination and its powerful text (“Believe what you read, teach what you believe, practice what you teach”), but their new responsibilities in their parishes and communities.
“I’ll get to know our community in their pains, their sorrows, and their joys,” White said. “It will be a new challenge and opportunity, and I find that very exciting.”
Meet all 10 of the new permanent deacons, their wives and parishes:
Rafael and Laura Aviña, Sacred Heart Church, Lancaster. Rafael, born in Mexico City, has been married to Laura Reyes for 38 years and they have three adult daughters. He works in the Military Aviation Maintenance Group for the U.S. Air Force. Rafael and Laura serve at Sacred Heart as coordinators of bereavement ministries and extraordinary ministers of Communion, and Rafael participates in RCIA.
Antonio and Violeta Catalan, St. Joseph Church, Hawthorne. Antonio, born in Mexico, and Violeta, have been married for 38 years and have three children and a granddaughter. Both work for Catholic Cemeteries & Mortuaries of Los Angeles, at Holy Cross Church in Culver City. At St. Joseph, their ministries include being lectors, extraordinary ministers of Communion, pre-baptismal preparation, Cursillistas, and coordinating a St. Jude Thaddeus devotional ministry.
Otto and Martha Lacayo, St. Therese Church, Alhambra. Otto and Martha are from Nicaragua and have two children. Otto recently retired from the U.S. Postal Service after 33 years. Otto and Martha are actively involved as extraordinary ministers of Communion, sacristans, and lectors (English and Spanish). Otto belongs to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites and the Knights of Columbus. Martha co-founded a Pregnancy Help Center, providing advocacy for all unborn children, and essential resources and education to women experiencing extreme challenges in their pregnancy.
Michael and Theresa Amerine Lee, St Louise de Marillac Church, Covina. Married for 12 years, Michael and Theresa are both retired — Michael after 20 years in law enforcement and Theresa after 22 years as an elementary school teacher. Michael was active in the Knights of Columbus, including two years as the Grand Knight. Both have been lectors and extraordinary ministers of Communion. Michael also has been an extraordinary minister of Communion to the homebound, and a sacristan before being instituted as an acolyte. Theresa serves as a member of the environmental team and on the Eucharistic Revival committee.
Miguel and Berenice Lerena, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Los Angeles. Miguel, born in Jalisco, Mexico, and Berenice, have been married for 34 years and have four adult sons. Miguel is a production supervisor at a company that produces electric transformers. Miguel and Berenice are lectors, extraordinary ministers of Communion, altar servers, lay members of the Divine Word, and are consecrated to the adoration of the Holy Sacrament.
Antonio and Maura Rodriguez, Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa Church, Los Angeles. Antonio, born in El Salvador, has been married to Maura for 42 years. They have two adult children and two grandchildren. Both retired, Antonio and Maura are lectors, extraordinary ministers of Communion, oversee quinceañera preparation, and are members of the parish finance and pastoral councils. Antonio and Maura will become the first diaconal couple in their parish.
Todd and Lesley Sanders, St. Rose of Lima Church, Simi Valley. Todd and Lesley, lifelong Simi Valley residents, have been married for 24 years. Todd is a special education teacher, and Lesley owns a home cleaning business. Both Todd and Lesley are involved at St. Rose as extraordinary ministers of Communion, lectors and the RCIA team. Todd is also active in Christian Services and as an extraordinary minister of Communion to the homebound.
Felipe Gregory and Lillybeth Nacpil Sasis, Beatitudes of Our Lord Church, La Mirada. Gregg is an infrastructure technician in higher education, while Lillybeth is an assistant director of student conduct at a public university. They are involved with Beatitudes’ ministry to the sick and homebound, Good Sam Pantry, the Habitat for Humanity LA Catholic Coalition, Marriage Enrichment, and as lectors and extraordinary ministers of Communion.
Dan and Amy White, St. John Vianney Church, Hacienda Heights. Dan, an architect, owns his own firm, Daniel D. White Architects, specializing in consultation on and design of churches and church-related buildings, furnishings, and planning. Amy is a licensed occupational therapist and works as a supervisor of a therapy unit for California Children’s Services, specializing in the treatment of children with lifelong disabilities. At St. John Vianney, both serve as acolytes and in bereavement ministry at vigils, funerals, and committal services.
Douglas Ernesto Zuniga Moncada, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Church, Sun Valley. Douglas was born in Nicaragua, and has lived in the U.S. since 1989. He has a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and a master’s in pastoral ministry from St. John’s Seminary. A master catechist, Douglas is involved with Holy Rosary’s baptismal preparation program, the St. Vincent de Paul food bank, and the small Christian community ministry in his parish.