What is a Deacon?
Vatican Council II, Lumen Gentium describes the deacon’s role in the hierarchy of the church as that of servant of all, dedicated to the people of God in the works of charity, authorized to administer Baptism, bless marriages, Viaticum to the dying, read the sacred scripture, instruct and exhort the faithful, preside over the worship and the prayer of the faithful.
Deacon William Sousa
One Sunday morning in 1998 while attending Mass with wife Sharon, St. Paul’s exhortation to the Ephesians brought meaning to his - soon to be - new life in the Spirit – that of a dedicated servant to the people of God. “And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.” (Ephesians 4:24)
With the help of Fr. Wells, then-pastor of Good Shepherd, and Sharon’s full support as a deacon’s wife, Deacon Bill commenced his spiritual journey to become one of the permanent deacons in the Diocese of Sacramento. On Pentecost Sunday 2000, Deacon Bill became the first permanent deacon for Good Shepherd Parish.
In his 20 years as part of Good Shepherd’s clergy team, Deacon Bill sees much of his work as encouragement and help to parishioners by proclaiming the Gospel and unfolding the good news “in a brief but pointed homily.” He believes parishioners come to know closeness with Jesus because He is the source of all life and goodness and He shares it with us.
“I am the way, the truth and the life,” Deacon Bill offers, quoting scripture and continuing with another, “I am the vine and you are the branches,” referring to the metaphor as a “shining one.”
To know closeness with Jesus through the command of the Eucharist also represents the heart of Deacon Bill’s encouragement.
“The Eucharist is not just something we cherish and adore from afar,” he insists. “The Eucharist is telling us to go in love and peace to change the world… the Eucharist lives on in us,” he preaches in a June 2021 homily citing the importance of recognizing “we are Christ’s representatives, we are Christ’s light of the world, fed in our festive banquet of love.” Further recalling Saint Pope John Paul II words, “we must not stand idle…” and there must be Eucharistic follow through in serving our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and the vulnerable.
Born on December 3, 1935, in Alameda, CA, Deacon Bill completed his undergraduate degree in Philosophy with a minor in Latin and English from St. Patrick’s College. He also completed his Master of Arts in 1973 majoring in Religious Studies and minoring in Education from the University of the Pacific. This academic background led him to over 40 years of teaching high school students in Latin, English and Music.
He embraced a life of public service beginning in 1977 in Stockton serving in several capacities through 1996. And this public service was the beginning of living out his passion in promoting Catholic Social Teaching. He served as the Social Justice Director for the Diocese of Sacramento from 1998 to 2002 and with the Environmental Committee advocated the protection of the earth’s ecosystem, the safeguarding of public health, and the availability of sufficient and sustainable energy.
Deacon Bill and Sharon have celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and continue to celebrate the blessings of family with two sons and three grandchildren.
Deacon Rommel Declines Sr.
When Deacon Rommel prepared to be ordained for the diaconate he did so with a phrase in mind – Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ. The meaningful words likely resonate with those familiar with the Cursillo Movement – an apostolic movement which is close to Rommel’s heart. Easily, these words translated to Rommel’s ministry of service when ordained on June 30, 2018, and they easily represent a deacon who is devoted to helping others encounter Christ and live out their baptismal calls as disciples.
Rommel explains, “I usually find Christ in the ordinary daily activities in extra ordinary ways.” He also says, “The encounters I have had in serving God’s people have transformed my life.”
Indeed, Rommel’s ministry over the years finds him serving the homeless in profound ways, delivering meals prepared by Good Shepherd’s Works of Mercy ministry, and reaching out in kindness and love to those in need.
“I have had many wonderful conversations with homeless brothers and sisters; I did not give anything to them except my attention and my time,” Rommel conveys emphasizing how “presence is all that matters…our presence allows Christ to be there with you to comfort a soul.”
Rommel also serves as a board member with Loaves and Fishes and has helped (pre-COVID) with the Winter Sanctuary program of the Elk Grove Homeless Assistance Team which houses homeless individuals during cold winter months at participating churches.
“Each day God calls each of us do his will on earth as if it were him doing the action in heaven,” Rommel offers knowing how “when we treat each other with love and respect, Christ is present…when we are charitable to our neighbors and especially those who need help, we become like Christ.”
Rommel encourages parishioners to find a prayer practice they enjoy. “The church has various ways to build a relationship with Christ, and communication is the foundation of all wonderful relationships,” he insists. “When we begin to chat with Christ, we get to know him and begin to listen for him in the silence,” Rommel adds.
Rommel works in the telecommunications industry, for AT&T professionally serving the State of California (State, Local & Education) agencies. In his diaconal ministry, he is focused on building up small faith communities for the laity to exercise their duties in living out the Gospel. Rommel looks to journey with the leaders and parishioners to create intentional spaces to celebrate the youth, young families & our cultural diversity. Rommel is currently appointed to the following Diocesean committees: Legislative Outreach, Unbound (Deliverance) Ministry, Liturgy Committee & Intercultural Committee on Access, Integration, and Mission.
Rommel and Janice have been active parishioners at Good Shepherd for about a decade and laugh when they remember their first blind date together which had been arranged by cousins! Now, 27 years later, the couple feels enormously blessed by their seven children AND by their “extended” family of thousands of parishioners.
Deacon Al Llenos
Deacon Al was ordained a Permanent Deacon on June 30, 2018 and has been one of the deacons at Good Shepherd Parish since then. He has been married to his lovely wife, Lilian, for 32 years and they feel gifted for their beautiful daughter, Allex.
Good Shepherd Parish was the Llenos family’s first church when they moved to Elk Grove. Before returning home to this parish, the family was quite active at St. Maria Goretti Parish where Al served as the Business Manager, participating in building the new community and church since its foundation in 2007. Today, Deacon Al serves as Operations Manager at St. Anthony, Winters and St. Martin Mission Church, Esparto.
Deacon Al’s family was involved in youth ministry prior to entering diaconate formation. Deacon Al views this involvement in youth ministry as “ultimately a call to give more back to church and to serve the people of God.”
The family also collectively volunteers at Loaves and Fishes, with Bereavement Ministry, and with Sick and Homebound Ministry. Aside from Deacon Al’s ministry at Good Shepherd, he also volunteers as a chaplain for Sacramento County Juvenile Facility. And while advocating and supporting each ministerial purpose, Deacon Al points to a “Ministry of Presence” in each of these ministries as “the most profound and meaningful.”
In Deacon Al’s free time, he enjoys running and playing sports, especially basketball. “I was quite a natural athlete when I was younger, and I think at my age I still got it,” he quips adding, “What a humble deacon, ha!”
Deacon Al and family also like to take road trips, watch movies, and just hang out and talk.
When asked, “What do you think a Deacon is?” He responds, “A deacon is “in-the-person of Christ, the Servant.”
The fact that diakonia possesses both divine and social dimensions, sets the deacon apart from a mere social worker. The relationship is not simply between a servant and those being served, but rather between Christ the Servant who, acting through His deacon, serves the Church. This identification with Christ who, “came not to be served, but to serve” (Mt 20:28) means that the deacon takes on both Christ’s Persona and His mission. He, in certain respects, incarnates Christ Jesus through the exercise of his ministry. Jesus washing the feet of the disciples has a paramount significance also of diakonos. (John 13:1-20)
“...Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task...” Acts 6:1-6.