Next month, five members of the Jesuits West Province will be ordained to the priesthood. Because of the state of California’s physical distancing requirements, the June 12 Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church in Hollywood is by invitation only, although the liturgy will be livestreamed.
These five Jesuits—Xavier Benavides, John Guyol, Jack Krouse, Brad Mills and Martin Ngo—have been in Jesuit Formation for between 10-12 years in preparation for their ordination. We invite you to get to know them below.
Born in San Antonio, Texas, Xavier Benavides, SJ, received an MBA from the University of Michigan and gained extensive work experience before entering the Society, including at Microsoft, Cisco, Amazon and Oxfam America. During his Jesuit Formation, he served as the director of campus ministry at Cristo Rey High School in Sacramento, where he also taught geometry and helped found the school’s social justice club.
Before ordination, Xavier will complete his Master of Divinity degree from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. A spiritual director for the last five years, he helped lead the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises at St. Ignatius Church in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts, during his final year of Formation. After ordination, Xavier will serve at St. Leo Catholic Church in Tacoma, Washington.
“The Society embodies a beautiful dynamic of navigating tradition and balancing that with the current context,” says Xavier, when asked what he loves about the Society. “The Jesuits have so many wonderful traditions that are being passed down to us from the Spiritual Exercises, from discernment to our ethos of education. There are so many incredible ways to pray, but Ignatius recognized the importance of accompanying people. Spiritual direction privileges that, recognizing that as human beings we need one another and that we can find God and develop a relationship with God by developing a relationship with someone else.”
Xavier says he is humbled by being able to serve his community and to be a part of people’s joy and mourning. “It is an extremely privileged place, especially during this time of adaptation and adjustment.”
John Guyol, SJ, was born and raised in St. Louis and began discerning religious life while in high school. After graduating from Villanova University with a degree in theology and religious studies, he discerned his religious vocation while working with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest in Hays, Montana, on the Fort Belknap Reservation. Upon meeting the Jesuits and learning about Ignatian spirituality, John quickly knew where God was calling him.
During his Jesuit Formation he worked at Jesuit High School in Portland, Oregon, teaching theology and coaching volleyball and javelin. He also spent time in Cameroon, where he studied French and worked with the Jesuit Refugee Service.
Before ordination, John will complete his Master of Divinity degree at the Jesuit School of Theology of Santa Clara University in Berkeley, California. During his studies, he sang with the choir at Our Lady of Lourdes in Oakland and worked at Bishop O’Dowd High School, where he learned and taught about the Church’s call to care for creation.
“One of the great spiritual lessons I have learned since entering the Society is to allow my spirituality to change,” John says. “I have learned about the creativity of God through music and beauty. I have learned about the love of God through family and strangers. I have learned about the patience of God in prayer. The experiences of my life as a Jesuit have helped me to open myself up to the surprising new ways through which God is trying to teach me. This has granted me a greater sense of freedom, and I await the goodness that is waiting for me wherever I am sent.”
After ordination, he will serve at St. Francis Xavier Church and St. Ignatius Mission in Missoula, Montana.
Jack Krouse, SJ, grew up in San Jose, California, and came to know the Jesuits while he was a student at Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose. He then studied history and literature at Harvard University. After graduation, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he interned at the White House before working for several years at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. During this time, he discerned the call to religious life.
During his Jesuit Formation, Jack taught Catholic ethics and the Old Testament at Loyola High School of Los Angeles and served as a campus minister and teacher at Sacred Heart Nativity School in San Jose. In 2020, he earned his Master of Divinity degree at Centre Sèvres, the Jesuit theology and philosophy school of Paris, while serving at the Catholic chaplaincy for college students at Sciences Po, the political science and diplomatic university of France. After ordination, he will finish a Licentiate in Sacred Theology at Centre Sèvres while continuing his ministry at the chaplaincy at Sciences Po.
Jack says that one of his great joys in Jesuit community has been the opportunity to nurture a love of hospitality. “The Gospel stories that show us Jesus enjoying a meal in the company of his friends or even those he just met—the wedding feast at Cana, in the homes of Zaccheus or Matthew or Martha and Mary, or with the pilgrims to Emmaus and the disciples at the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after the Resurrection—are all a great reminder of the power of hospitality, conversation and a good meal shared together. Sometimes the table itself is a place of true conversion for someone.”
Brad Mills, SJ, was born and raised in the Santa Clara Valley in California and graduated from Bellarmine College Preparatory in San Jose and from Santa Clara University, where he received degrees in psychology and environmental science. After college, he joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps for two and a half years serving in Peru and Bolivia. During this time, his desire to become a Jesuit priest became clear.
During his Formation, Brad worked at Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Diego, teaching catechesis, helping people apply for citizenship and accompanying volunteer groups to Tijuana. In 2020, he received his Bachelor of Sacred Theology from the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Bogotá, Colombia, and, after being ordained a deacon in November 2020, he served in several small villages in Cartagena, Colombia.
Brad says that during his time as a Jesuit, he’s observed his Jesuit mentors work in simple ways: as pastors, spiritual directors or friends.
“I have come to see this as my call: doing small works of love for individuals, on a day-to-day basis. Focusing my life on this mission, I am more able to see clearly how God calls me to love others in the here and now: in hidden, simple, everyday ways that build community and fraternity.”
After ordination, Brad will serve as an associate pastor at Most Holy Trinity Church in San Jose, California.
Martin Ngo, SJ, was born in Orange County, California, and at five years old, a Jesuit friend of the family told him endearingly, “You will become a priest.” Before that came to be, Martin earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of California, Irvine, and then worked for a software company and later became a systems analyst for the City of Los Angeles, while nurturing his love for acting at the Lifebook Acting Academy in Hollywood.
After entering the Jesuits, Martin worked in production for Christus Ministries and taught digital media arts and ran student life activities at Verbum Dei High School in Los Angeles. He also studied at the Second City in Chicago and earned a master’s degree in digital storytelling from Loyola University Chicago and a Master of Divinity degree and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry.
Martin says that teaching at Verbum Dei were some of the most enriching years of his Formation. “I came alive in the endless hours spent connecting with students, creating lunchtime competitions for silly prizes, handing out hilarious detention slips, forming promising young leaders and establishing lasting relationships with colleagues.”
He was also able to continue acting during some stages of his Formation. “I didn’t have to sacrifice the gift of a Jesuit vocation to nurture this passion,” he says. “On the contrary, it further colored in who I was (am) as a Jesuit.”
His first assignment as a priest will be serving in campus ministry at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.