Rev. Joseph T. Nguyen (Parochial Administrator)


Fr. JosephI vividly remember when I lived in Vietnam. I was born on January 29, 1977 in Gia Ray. Our family was very poor. We belonged to the lowest class. We didn’t have the luxuries of life and for many years my father had to work almost all day and night to support his family. He worked hard but still struggled to earn enough money to feed our family. Indeed, my family lived in desperate circumstances. Sometimes I felt that I wasn’t blessed like many other children who had plenty of everything, while I didn’t even have enough nutritional food to eat. There were many cold nights I sat alone with the wind thinking about my fate.
Having lived a life of poverty in Vietnam, as a young boy, I dreamt about making a lot of money and having a luxurious lifestyle when I grew up, and I knew that this dream wouldn’t become a reality if I continued to stay in Vietnam.
Fortunately, in August 1990, my parents, five brothers, one sister, a cousin and I left Vietnam to go to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, then a year later to San Leandro, CA. This was the first ray of hope in my life. After a week of living in the United States I started school. Throughout my high school years, I held after-school, weekend, and summer jobs. I always wanted to have more money and many other things.
Striving for more money and material things was the goal of my adolescent life. Yet as days passed by, I realized that I was deceiving myself by placing worldly means above God. In fact, the more things I wanted, the less happy I became. This is because the infinite longing of my heart was misplaced. In a sense, I was searching for happiness and satisfaction where they could never be found.
My heart was restless and longing for something else. What is it that I was longing for? Indeed, I was longing for God. As a result of this I started to search for God. I rode my bike to church every morning to attend Mass. Besides attending daily Mass, I joined prayer meeting groups, sharing my spiritual life with others, and helping in spiritual and social events at St. Leander Parish in San Leandro. I found this joyful and uplifting. It was through participating in the daily Mass and receiving the Eucharist that I acquired a growing desire for God.
In no time I started to think about the call to priesthood. As a teenager I could see my future as a priest helping others come closer to God and making Him better known. One day after Mass, Fr. Ricardo Chavez, who was the pastor of San Leander Parish at the time, asked me: “Have you ever wanted to become a priest?” I told him that I have been thinking about it. A few days later I received a phone call from the vocation director of the diocese of Oakland, Fr. Fernando Cortez. He interviewed me and invited me to apply. Soon after the application process I received a letter from him stating that I was accepted to be an Oakland Seminarian and my heart was filled with joy.
In August of 1996, two months after I graduated from high school, Fr. Cortez sent me to Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Santa Fe, New Mexico, to begin my priestly formation. The first day I entered the seminary I fell in love with it right away. I was at IHM Seminary for two years. Unfortunately, the seminary was closed in May 1998. God in His providence allowed me to complete my college studies at the University of San Diego where I was able to continue my formation at St. Francis Seminary under the direction of the Rector, Father Steven F. Callahan.
I graduated in June of 2000, and in September of 2000 I entered Saint Patrick Seminary in Menlo Park to continue on my journey toward the priesthood. My seminary formation was 9 years in all and I enjoyed my priestly formation and studies of philosophy and theology very much. But most of all I enjoyed my daily prayer life, such as participating in Mass and adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, praying the liturgy of the hours and frequent confession. I became convinced early on that a strong prayer life is essential, and that without time alone with God in the silence of the heart I would not have been able to continue on my journey toward the priesthood. By the grace of God, I was ordained a deacon on January 29, 2005 and a priest on May 20, 2005. My ordination to the priesthood by The Most Reverend Allen H. Vigneron at St. Felicitas Parish in San Leandro was the happiest day of my life as well as my parents’.
Five weeks after ordination, I began my priestly ministry at St. John Vianney Parish in Walnut Creek. On January 1, 2008 I moved to St. Joseph Parish – Mission San Jose to begin my second assignment. And on September 15, 2010 I began my third assignment at the Cathedral Parish of Christ the Light. I look forward to starting my fourth assignment as Parochial Administrator at St. Leo’s as of July 1, 2015.
I have been a priest almost ten years already; I frequently reflect on the gift of priesthood that God has given me and I know nothing can replace it. Deep down from the core of my being, I know for certain that my heart cannot find rest and personal fulfillment in anything other than in God and in being a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God (1 Cor. 4:1-2). I thank God every day for such a holy privilege.