PHOENIX — It was early 1975, the War in Vietnam was approaching its end. Eddie Ngo hadn’t been born yet. But a series of events already was shaping the life of the future Jesuit priest, who now serves as associate pastor, manager of Ignatian Faith Formation and Enrichment, and vicar for Hispanic Ministries at St. Francis Xavier in Phoenix, the Diocese of Phoenix’s only parish run by the Society of Jesus.

“(Eddie’s) story is a very unique one, indeed,” said Fr. Radmar Jao, S.J., director of vocations for the Jesuits United States West province.

When it became apparent the Communist North Vietnamese would win the war, many South Vietnamese began leaving their country. Eddie’s father, a logistics officer with the South Vietnamese army, instructed his wife and their five children to flee as well. They would go to the U.S., though Mr. Ngo (pronounced noh), as a military member, could not travel with them.

“He made plans to take a military transport,” Eddie recalled. “He knew if he stayed, as soon as the North Vietnamese took over, he would become a prisoner.”
But escape didn’t come easily.

“He was staying with friends at a prearranged site where he was to be picked up and taken with others out of Vietnam. When no one showed up, he thought he had missed the pickup. He wasn’t sure he would get out. But a fellow soldier returned to pick up some belongings. He spotted my dad, and said, ‘We’re leaving,’ and took him to a boat, where they boarded and left.

Eddie’s father was in the U.S. within hours.

If not for a decision Mr. Ngo made years earlier, however; the escape might not have happened.

“My father had decided to learn a foreign language. He was thinking about French, but decided to learn English,” Eddie explained. “That helped him form relationships with other English-speaking officers like the one who helped him that night. You could say that decision had a lasting impact on his life and his family.”


After Mr. Ngo, his wife and children were reunited, they stayed at a refugee base in Fort Chaffee, Ark.

Eddie was born there nearly three months later.
After a brief stay in Indianapolis, the family settled in North Texas.

His parents were Buddhists. South Vietnam had a mixed religious culture at the time of the war. Buddhism was more prominent in North Vietnam.

The rest of the Ngo family, including two brothers and three sisters, has remained Buddhists.

Eddie, however, was on a spiritual search that led to Catholicism.
“It (conversion) was a gradual process with huge leaps,” he explained.

One of those leaps came during Eddie’s adolescent years in the Boy Scouts. Faith was a “pillar” in the Scouts, and he encountered others of several religions.

But the biggest jump came while attending college at the University of Dallas.
“I met a lot of wonderful, faithful, joyful Catholics,” he said. “That led to a very deep, personal encounter with Jesus.”

The deal was sealed in his sophomore year while on a trip to Rome. Eddie was part of a group of visitors who got to meet Pope St. John Paul II, an experience that showed him “there was holiness outside” the religion of his childhood.

He converted at age 24. His decision to become a Jesuit priest would come a few years later.


After returning to school, he earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, then his medical degree. Then, while serving his residency, Eddie was invited by a friend to a regional Christian Life Community gathering.

“As the priest started talking,” he explained in a Jesuits West video, “it was aligning with everything I had been praying about, thinking about.”

“Then, I find out he’s a Jesuit. I’m like ‘wait a second.’ And I notice other people are following his spirituality — Ignatian spirituality, is what we call it — and I was like, ‘There’s a whole group of people who think this way.’ I could breathe and say, ‘I’m home.’”

He entered the novitiate in 2012, and was ordained at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood, Calif., June 10.

“Jesuit formation is long,” explained Fr. Bob Fambrini, pastor at St. Xavier. “Twelve years; that’s a long period. Ignatius felt strongly about this, that our formation should lack nothing.”

Leaving the Buddhist religion, then deciding to become a Catholic priest posed a big adjustment for his family, especially his father and mother.

“It was tough for my parents. It took a while. There was a point of accepting it. I can’t fault them,” he said.

Jesuit spirituality helped.

“Seeing God in everything, teaching others to do so, meeting people where they’re at.
That spoke volumes to them. I love my family and I just meet them where they are. They’re still a big part of my life, and I care for them deeply,” he said.

Three of his siblings attended his ordination.

Eddie also cited the love and support of the Diocese of Phoenix and its leaders.

Fr. Eddie Ngo (left) laughs with Fr. Daniel Nevares, the nephew of Bishop Eduardo Nevares, prior to Mass at Ss. Simon and Jude this past Sunday.

“I have a great deal of gratitude to Bishop Dolan and Bishop Nevares and to everyone who prays for us, walks with us, and supports us. It’s very special.”