Deacon Joseph Tran shares some of his thoughts as he prepares for Ordination on Monday, September 7, at 9:00 am. Please keep him and the two other men to be ordained in your prayers and watch Ordination Mass live on our Facebook page.
Q. How does it feel, after years of study at the seminary, to be ordained to the priesthood?
I feel blessed and grateful for I’ve become a different person by God’s grace, and the help and guidance of others. I am blessed to receive the Catholic Faith from my parents and grew up in a strong, faith-filled and devout Catholic family. My parents tried their best to afford me the best education I could receive. They supported me in all my choices, especially in my priestly formation. Fortunately, I was sent to the United State to study English and have my priestly formation at Mundelein Seminary. God draws straight with crooked lines. God has chosen me, an unworthy man to be ordained to the priesthood of Christ.
Q. What did you do before you became a priest?
I have a Bachelor’s degree from the law school at Hanoi National University in 2008. After one year of advanced study, I decided to enter the formation house to discern my priestly vocation in the Archdiocese of Hanoi in 2009. In Fall 2010, I was sent to Divine Word College to study English under the sponsorship of Maryknoll fathers and brothers Missionary Society, Ossining, New York. Then I attended and finished philosophy and Theology at Mundelein Seminary, Chicago. In May 2018 I joined the Diocese of San Jose. My home parish is Holy Family, San Jose where I spent my Pastoral Year under the supervision of Fr. Andrew Vu Nguyen.
Q. Who influenced you to consider the vocation to the priesthood and at what point did you know for sure that the Lord wanted you to be a priest?
The most significant person who has had great influence over my life and priestly vocation is my former pastor Joseph Nguyen An Khang, my Godfather and mentor when I was still in Vietnam.
I was touched by his simple life and his care for the poor. A story I eye witnessed: his friends from Hanoi, where Fr. Joseph did his minor seminary, saw the empty rectory. They wanted to give him an air conditioner because the weather was very hot back there in my country. Fr. Joseph Nguyen humbly replied, “Thank you for your kindness and generosity. I accept the gift, but could I use the money to help the poor children in our parish for their education, and bring some rice for the poor widows to survive? Furthermore, if I have air conditioning while our parishioners do not, I will create a big gap with them and no one will dare to come here again.” I was touched. He had a big heart for the poor. He always told them that “I will say mass for your intentions without a mass stipend.” He offered them prayers and even gave them some money for the poor family to buy some food to eat and to poor children for their general education.
Q: What are you looking most forward to in your ministry as a priest?
From my own experience, I have always been convinced that being called to be Christ’s follower in the particular vocation of priesthood is a privilege and a joy. By becoming a priest of Christ, I will be present at the most important events of human life. I will have the privilege, as many other priests have, to celebrate many joyful moments among God’s children: from welcoming newly born babies to the Church in Baptism, to celebrating the youth who receive First Communion, Confirmation, and later as adults preparing for Matrimony. Being a priest, I will have the blessing to reach out more effectively to the sick, lonely, vulnerable or unfortunate in society. Further, I will hear their wounded stories, help them in their brokenness, or to be at their sick bed. It is also a blessing that a priestly life forms a bridge between Divine mercy and Human miseries in the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Anointing the Sick, and Last Rites at Funerals. The life of a priest is the channel to heal all the broken hearts and wounded souls.
In summer 2017, after 3rd year theology, I was firmly assured that God called me into the priestly life here in the US after finishing a 30-day retreat of discernment of the Holy Spirit.
Q. And What does it mean to become a priest during the COVID pandemic?
I have experienced the joy as well as the challenges in serving God’s people at Holy Family Church and at also at Christ the King parish with 3 different communities (Anglo, Spanish and Vietnamese), especially in this time of COVID-19 and the unrest of our country. COVID has changed the world and turned our life up-side-down. I will be called “COVID PRIEST”. However, I have valued even greater the priestly vocation God has called me to. For I can be in solidarity with them like Jesus did coming down from heaven to be us, to share our human sufferings, and then nailed them on the Cross.
Thus, l am excited for the new life as a diocesan priest, yet at the same time a little perplexed. Right after my ordination I will be a parochial vicar at Christ the King amidst of the crisis because of Covid-19 pandemic and the unrest because of the racism issues in our country.
However, I am confident in God’s grace and the kindness/generosity of his people where I am sent to serve.
Q. What advice would you give to a man who is contemplating a vocation to the priesthood?
I would share with you the words Peter said to the Crippled Beggar after Jesus inspired him and formed him to be like Christ for others: “I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, [rise and] walk” (Acts 3:6). Our world nowadays has so many people who are mentally or spiritually crippled and need your hands and hearts; for Jesus doesn’t have physical hands and hearts in the world now, but yours.
Simon Peter heard the call and saw the need to bring others to Jesus’ Church & salvation, he quickly answer the Lord: “at your command I will lower the nets” (Lk 5, 5).