By Liz Sullivan
There is this step in the process of becoming a priest for every man called to serve God and the Church.
For two such men called in the Diocese of San José, this step will take place on January 4, 2020, or the weekend of the Feast of the Epiphany when the three Wise Men visited the new born Christ.
Joseph Tran and Angelbert Chikere will be ordained to the Transitional Diaconate during a Mass celebrated by Bishop Oscar Cantú at Holy Family Church at 11 a.m.
Both men have traveled a great path to this moment in their priestly formation.
Chikere was born in Cameroon on the west coast of Africa. He finished his philosophical and theological studies in Nigeria, while studying with the Shoenstatt Fathers, a Marian Community.
“During my formation years, I encountered first-hand the trauma and devastation of war while on pastoral mission in East Africa (Burundi and the Congo DR); and the militancy of the youths in the oil-rich Niger Delta creeks of Nigeria,” he said. “After working with the youths in these conflict areas, it became obvious to me that I would want to go beyond my formation period at the Schoenstatt Fathers to avail myself in service to these restive youths in the Niger Delta creeks, through advocacy for social justice.”
Eventually Chikere was drawn to the Jesuit School of Theology at Santa Clara University, where he said he had “unfinished business with the Lord.” He will finish at Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Ill., with a Licentiate (graduate degree) in Sacred Theology.
He added: “the Holy Spirit led me to wrestling grounds and like Jacob, I wrestled with the Lord. His words were clear to me: Feed my sheep, and you can still, and will, serve even better the course of Social Justice in the world as a shepherd to my people. For I am Justice.”
Said Father Ritche Bueza, Director of Vocations for the Diocese, “some parishioners have commented that he is always prepared when giving reflections and they are always relevant and to the point.”
Chikere will be the first priest ordained for the Diocese of San José from the Igbo community. The Igbo community are an ethnic group native to present-day south-central and southeastern Nigeria.
“As I complete my formation and prepare for my diaconate ordination,” said Chikere, “I look forward to being a shepherd that smells like the sheep, as we journey together to greener pastures in the Lord.”
For Joseph Tran, the journey to this moment began in a small town in the Ha Nam Ninh Province of Vietnam.
“Growing up in a rural Catholic village, parish life was very important for me,” said Tran. “Practicing faith is the priority in my family. Even though farming work, especially during harvesting or transplanting season is extremely busy, my parents always told us ‘first God and going to church.’ In their free time they participated and volunteered for some activities in my home parish. They always encouraged or even forced us go to church at least for daily Mass, even at 4:00 in the morning. As family, we have great devotion for Saint Joseph and Mary. Before any family event, we prayed to Saint Joseph and recited a decade of the holy rosary together as family for intercession.”
Bueza described Tran as a “kind-hearted man. I believe like the other men we have recently ordained, he has the heart of the Good Shepherd. He is well liked by the parishioners. He takes initiative and always available to the people. He is faith-filled and prayerful man.”
While attending the seminary in Vietnam, Tran said he felt a calling to serve the people in the U.S. as a priest. That call led him to parishes in Leawood, Kansas, and Chicago, Illinois. Then after spending two Christmases in San José with friends, and participating in a 30-day retreat at the Jesuit Retreat Center in Los Altos, Tran felt the Diocese of San José would be the best fit for him.
“I can use both my backgrounds as Vietnamese culture and American education/culture to serve the people of God in San José where there are a lot of Vietnamese people as well as Anglo, Filipino, and other ethnic groups,” said Tran. “After a long period of time of having discussed these thoughts with my spiritual director, my spiritual father, my family, other priests and brother seminarians, I have decided to serve God’s people, including Vietnamese Catholic ones, in the U.S., with peace in my mind and heart.”
“I am inviting and encouraging all of us to continue to promote a Culture of Vocations and pray that the Lord of the Harvest grace is with more co-workers in making present the Kingdom of God,” said Bueza. “May Mary the Mother of Vocations and St. Joseph our patron, intercede for our Diocese.”
Photos and a story from the ordination will be featured in the January 21, 2020 issue of The Valley Catholic.
Learn more about vocations in the Diocese of San José by visiting