Eddie Ngô, SJ
Province: USA West
Hometown: Coppell, Texas
Highlights of Jesuit Formation:
- Completed first studies in Mexico, where he learned Spanish, accompanied Christian Life Communities, was a spiritual director, and played music with the choir at the Ignatian spirituality centers at Casa Loyola and ITESO.
- Lived at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California, twice: first to complete a writing project about the retired Jesuits living there and then to finish his thesis on the theology of nonviolent communication.
- Served as a deacon at St. Theresa Church in Oakland, California, and St. Clare Parish in Santa Clara, California.
Post-Ordination: Will serve as parochial vicar at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Phoenix.
Bachelor’s degree, biochemistry, University of Dallas; Doctor of Medicine, UTHealth Houston McGovern Medical School; Master of Divinity, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University; Master of Theology, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University; Licentiate in Sacred Theology, Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University
After his parents and five older siblings emigrated from Việt Nam in 1975, Eddie Ngô, SJ, was born in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. After a short stint in Indianapolis, his family settled in North Texas. Being raised in a Buddhist household, Eddie converted to Roman Catholicism after attending the University of Dallas, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry. He then completed his medical degree at UTHealth Houston McGovern Medical School. Concurrent with his training and work as a chemistry high school teacher and family physician, Eddie taught Sunday school, led Bible study, played worship music, served on medical missions, participated in Đồng Hành Christian Life Communities and gave retreats. After three years of practicing medicine, he entered the Jesuits in 2012.
As a novice, he taught English as a second language with the organization MEND (Meeting Every Need with Dignity) in the San Fernando Valley in California; interacted with the currently and formerly incarcerated through the Office of Restorative Justice in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles; visited patients as a chaplain at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, California; established a clinic at the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora, Mexico; and began training as a spiritual director. In first studies, Eddie learned Spanish and studied philosophy at ITESO (Instituto Tecnológico y Estudios Superiores de Occidente) in Guadalajara, Mexico.
For regency, he taught physics for sophomores and faith formation for freshmen at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon; completed a writing project at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos, California; and worked as program director of immersions at Santa Clara University. Eddie next earned his Master of Divinity, Master of Theology and Licentiate in Sacred Theology at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University, focusing on nonviolent communication. He also served as a deacon at St. Theresa Church in Oakland, California, and St. Clare Parish in Santa Clara, California. After ordination, Eddie will serve as parochial vicar at St. Francis Xavier Parish in Phoenix.
What are three words a family member or fellow Jesuit would use to describe you? (Ask someone.) Do you agree with his or her selections?
Intelligent. Kind. Loyal.
If I could pick their brains, I would love to hear what resonates within them as they think of me as intelligent, kind and loyal. However, yes, I do agree with these words.
What’s one interesting fact about yourself not everyone would know?
I’ve made two music albums, one a live concert and one in the studio.
Who’s your favorite saint, and why?
St. Philip of Neri. Being the patron saint of joy, his two favorite books were the Bible and a text of jokes. He once had a drinking contest with someone in order to evangelize them. With St. Philip of Neri being my role model, I imagine him praying with, laughing with and loving people in a fun manner. More recently, I discovered that he was good friends with St. Ignatius of Loyola, and, in a way, I hope I am, too.
What is one hobby you’ve cultivated as a Jesuit, and why is it important to you?
Listening. People tend to think that good listeners just exist, but to be a good listener takes practice and intention. Then what happens during the listening? Wow. To tap into the mystery of another human being, to hear what moves or strikes them because of these deep desires for life, is a gift that sustains me and reminds me of the deep humanity/divinity of our Lord.
What do you love about the Society of Jesus?
Honestly, it’s the last part of our name. Jesus. It is the one with whom I pray, respond to, and who calls me to life and loving service. Jesus is in all we do. It’s a wonderful reminder.
What was one particularly meaningful experience you had during your formation, and why was it meaningful to you?
Living and writing about the retired and infirm Jesuits at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center continues to be memory that I can easily return to. After these amazingly successful careers, they do not really bring up their accomplishments. It does not mean they did not go through struggles, but they have immense trust in the Lord. At the end of their life, they are reflective, putting things in order as they pray for the church and all the world. And the laughter! Don’t believe Disney. Sacred Heart Jesuit Center is the happiest place on earth.
Tell your vocation story. One catch: You must use only six words or less.
Loved into the Mystery of grace.
Where has your Jesuit vocation taken you that you never thought you would go?
It was never certain, because pursuing this vocation was an act of faith. Not blind faith, though, because there were data points along the way. The desire to serve within me. The joy I saw in other Jesuits.
Amazingly, I began to become the very things that I was desiring. More love, freedom, joy and peace. To those places I never thought I would go.
How has your spirituality changed since entering the Society?
I used to have a false belief that I had to do something in order to gain love and affection from people, especially God. On an Ignatian contemplative retreat, the director told me, “Don’t talk. Don’t think. Don’t pray. Just be with this God who wants to be with you.”
Since then, for 25 minutes each day, I put on a timer where I just sit before this great mystery. I don’t have to do anything else. Just be.
And it affects every other moment of time. I am loved. Period.
Imagine you could travel back in time and meet yourself the first day you entered the Society of Jesus. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to yourself?
“First, don’t freak out. It is really me,” I would say to myself first because I would be totally freaked out meeting my future self. Second, “Do you love God? (Rhetorical question.) Then just keep falling in love with God, and it will all work out.”
What brings you joy?
Intimate connections. Joking and laughing with friends and family. Celebrating wonderful occasions. Attending to the needs of the other. Working for justice, peace and reconciliation. Contributing in ways that enrich people’s lives.
Who is one important mentor who has accompanied you on your journey? What made them a good mentor?
Mike Engh, SJ. He has been a role model to me, in the way that he has this posture of presence for the person in front of him — listening, attentive and ready to see and point out grace. Interestingly, as I reflect on it, the three words that were used to describe me, I would describe Mike — intelligent, kind, and loyal.
What does Jesuit community mean to you? What’s one example of this lived out?
Cura personalis –> à cura apostolica: a place for care for oneself in order to care for others.
It’s a concrete living out of the commandment to love others as one loves oneself.
For me, it’s the eucharistic meal and the times of meals we share in common. Lifting up people who have asked for our prayers and all those in need in the world at our Masses is an incredible privilege and responsibility. That heart of Jesus naturally moves into the daily work we all do in our different works.