June 12, 2023  |  By:   |  Press Releases  |  

–Graphic Designer involved with the St. Vincent de Paul food bank among the Class of 2023–

Archbishop José H. Gomez ordained 10 new permanent deacons for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, June 10. Restored in 1968 as a fully functioning ministry within the Church, the deacon is ordained to serve God’s people in communion with the bishop and his priests.

“The deacon’s mission is the service of love. So brothers, be servants of love,” the Archbishop Gomez said in his homily.

The nine married men and one single man ordained on June 10 completed their theological formation during a five-year period, in preparation for ministry in their parishes. The formation process – when the deacons are accompanied by their wives – integrates academic, pastoral, human, and spiritual dimensions towards forming the couples and single men in ministries of word, liturgy, and charity.

Members of the Diaconate Formation Class of 2023 are Rafael and Laura Aviña, Antonio and Violeta Catalan, Otto and Martha Lacayo, Michael and Theresa Amerine Lee, Michael and Berenice Lerena, Antonio and Maura Rodriguez, Todd and Lesley Sanders, Felipe Gregory and Lillybeth Nacpil Sasis, Dan and Amy White, and Douglas Ernesto Zuniga Moncada.

“I’m very excited to welcome these 10 new deacons into the Archdiocese of Los Angeles diaconate community,” said Deacon Gabriel Saavedra, director of the Archdiocese’s Deacons in Ministry Office. “These men and their wives have been formed to be powerful servants to the people of God and I can’t wait to see how the Holy Spirit will guide them in their ministries as new deacon couples in their parishes.”

The diaconate has its origin in apostolic times and flourished during the first four centuries of the Church’s history. The Second Vatican Council restored the diaconate as a permanent ministry in the Church to integrate and strengthen those who were already exercising diaconal functions, and to more fully serve the needs of the people. Permanent deacons receive faculties to preach, to perform baptisms, funerals, and to witness marriages. They may assist at the Eucharist or the Mass, but cannot consecrate the host, hear confessions, give absolutions or anoint the sick.

“Recently, Bishop Trudeau said something powerful to our transitional deacons, that resounded powerfully with me: ‘All of us, by virtue of our baptism, are called to be conformed to Christ; all of us act in the person of Christ’,” said newly ordained Deacon Douglas Zuniga. “For deacons, we are called to act In Persona Christi Servi… for we voluntarily offer our service, our lives, for the good of others and for the love of God. This is a reminder for me that my ministry is oriented to serve the people of God for the rest of my life and with all the love that God has put in my heart.”

In the Catholic Church, the diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons, while those not planning to be ordained priests are often called permanent deacons. In both instances, the ministry of the deacon is the same. Married and single men may be ordained permanent deacons, but single men must make a commitment to celibacy at their ordination.

According to a report from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, there were 498 permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2021-2022, each serving 8,083 Catholic faithful. For additional information about diaconate formation please visit or

Following is a brief profile of each one of the new deacons and their wives:

Rafael and Laura Aviña, of Sacred Heart Parish, Lancaster. Rafael was born in Mexico City. He and Laura have been married for 38 years and have three daughters. He works as a civilian in the Military Aviation Maintenance Group for the U.S. Department of the Air Force. They are coordinators of bereavement ministries and extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion.

Antonio and Violeta Catalan, of St. Joseph, Hawthorne. Antonio was born in Mexico. He and Violeta have been married 38 years. They have three children and a beloved granddaughter. They both work for the Catholic Cemeteries of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Their ministries include lector, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and pre-baptismal preparation.

Otto and Martha Lacayo, of St. Therese, Alhambra. Otto and Martha are from Nicaragua and have two children. Otto recently retired from the U.S. Postal Service after 33 years. They are Eucharistic ministers, sacristans, and bilingual lectors in English and Spanish. Otto is a member of the Knights of Columbus and Martha co-founded a pregnancy help center.

Michael and Theresa Amerine Lee, of St. Louise de Marillac Parish, Covina. Michael and Theresa have been married 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.

Miguel and Berenice Lerena, of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Los Angeles. Miguel was born in Jalisco, Mexico and has been married to Berenice for 34 years. They have four adult sons. Miguel is a production supervisor at an electric transformers company. Miguel and Berenice are lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and altar servers.

Antonio and Maura Rodriguez, of the Parish of Our Lady of the Rosary of Talpa, Los Angeles. Antonio was born in El Salvador and has been married to Maura for 42 years. They have two adult children and two grandchildren. They serve as lectors, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and are members of the parish finance and pastoral council.

Todd and Lesley Sanders, of Saint Rose of Lima, Simi Valley. Todd and Lesley are lifelong Simi Valley residents. They have been married for 24 years. Todd is a Special Education teacher, and Lesley owns a home cleaning business. They are involved in RCIA and EME ministries. Todd is also a lector, and member of Christian Services and EME Homebound ministries.

Felipe Gregory and Lillybeth Nacpil Sasis, of Beatitudes of Our Lord, La Mirada. Gregg is an infrastructure technician in higher education, while Lillybeth is an assistant director of student conduct in a public four-year university. They are involved with the Ministry for the Sick and Homebound, the Catholic Coalition of Habitat for Humanity LA, and marriage enrichment.

Dan and Amy White, of St. John Vianney Church, Hacienda Heights. Dan is an architect who specializes in the consultation and the design of church and church-related buildings. Amy is a licensed occupational therapist who specializes in the treatment of children with lifelong disabilities. They both serve in bereavement ministry at vigils, funerals, and committal services.

Douglas Ernesto Zuniga Moncada, of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, Sun Valley. Douglas was born in Nicaragua, and he has lived in the United States since 1989. He has a degree in Graphic Design and another in Pastoral Ministry. He is involved with the baptismal preparation program, the St. Vincent de Paul food bank, the small Christian community ministry in his parish.


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