Bishop Andrew Cozzens spent his first Christmas as auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis pushing the limits of his front-wheel drive Nissan Sentra during a white-out. En route to celebrating the 11 p.m. Spanish Christmas Eve Mass at the Church of the Risen Savior in Burnsville, his less-than-ideal mode of transportation had him in danger of showing up late.
“It was snowing like gangbusters,” said Cozzens, who was installed as the eighth Bishop of Crookston, Minnesota on Monday, Dec. 6. “I realized this was never going to work.”
Now returning to a more rural diocese in northwestern Minnesota, the Saint Paul Seminary alum, instructor and resident today owns a vehicle that features four-wheel drive.
It’s just one of the many lessons he’ll take with him after three decades of ministerial leadership in the Twin Cities, including the past eight years as auxiliary bishop.
“I no doubt have a lot to learn,” Cozzens said, “but, thank God, I feel like the Lord has given me some gifts I hope will be a great aide to the people of Crookston.”
Those gifts include the ability to help lead the Saint Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese through a clergy abuse scandal, news of which broke just eight days before he was asked to serve as auxiliary bishop. They also include oversight and insight with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, NET Ministries, St. Paul’s Outreach, the Institute for Priestly Formation and The Saint Paul Seminary.
“I’m filled with many emotions today,” Cozzens said. “Excitement, joy and enthusiasm. I’m a person who loves adventures. To me, this is a great, new adventure … for the sake of the Gospel.
“Also, there’s grief. I’m sad to have to leave my home.”
Bishop Cozzens’ résumé
- Graduated from Benedictine in College
- Served as missionary for NET Ministries
- Worked as director of campus outreach for St. Paul’s Outreach
- Attended Saint Paul Seminary from 1993-1997
- Ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in 1997
- Parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. Paul from 1997-2000
- Parochial vicar at then-Faribault Catholic Community (now Divine Mercy) from 2000-02
- Earned doctorate in sacred theology from Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome in 2008
- Ordained auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 2013
For the past several years, Cozzens has been a resident of the same seminary where he prepared for the priesthood. He’s taught multiple classes, served as a formator priest and been a constant presence for men discerning the priesthood, as well as the lay students that attend The Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity and its accompanying institutes.
Cozzens also served as interim rector of The Saint Paul Seminary from June 2018-January 2019.
“There are many things I’ve been able to do in my time with the [Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis], but few of them have been more gratifying than the opportunity to live and work at The Saint Paul Seminary,” Cozzens said. “It’s been a great opportunity help the men there prepare to become priests. My time as interim rector was certainly a great blessing, as well as the opportunity to live there the past few years and just be around the seminarians, join them for prayer … and live with other priests who are such fine examples of priestly life.”
The son of Jack and Judy Cozzens was born in 1968 and went to Catholic grade school and high school in Denver before attending Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. It’s there that Cozzens met several future priests who would go on to co-found the Companions of Christ, a fraternal community of priests and seminarians that received canonical recognition in 1992.
“Bishop Cozzens is a quintessential example of a joyful, Catholic leader,” said Saint Paul Seminary rector Fr. Joseph Taphorn, who became good friends with Cozzens at Benedictine and remains a close confidant today. “He has always been a man who combines authentic reverence with a dynamic, straightforward approach to leading others to Christ. He was an inspiration to me in my own discernment of a priestly vocation those many years ago.
“It has been a joy to have Bishop Cozzens as my neighbor at The Saint Paul Seminary. His quiet presence at morning holy hours and annual conferences at days of recollection has had a profound impact on our men in formation. While we will miss having him around, we are excited for Bishop Cozzens and the faithful of the Diocese of Crookston as they welcome their new shepherd.”
Cozzens spent 1991-92 as a team leader for NET Ministries, a traveling missionary outreach to young Catholics; his first assignment was in the Crookston diocese. He then spent a year as co-director of campus outreach for St. Paul’s Outreach, a collegiate on-campus ministry that, like NET, is headquartered in the Twin Cities.
Cozzens was ordained a priest of St. Paul and Minneapolis in 1997. He served as parochial vicar at the Cathedral of St. Paul and then-Faribault Catholic Community before heading to the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome to pursue his doctorate in sacred theology.
Cozzens earned the advanced degree in 2008. Five years later, he was appointed auxiliary bishop on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
He was immediately tasked with navigating the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis’ clergy sex abuse scandal and resulting bankruptcy. He takes over a diocese that has been through a similar time of pain and trial and requires healing, Cozzens said.
“I’ve probably had to deal with every aspect of that crisis,” Cozzens said. “I’ve seen how difficult it can be to change the culture of the church so we can deal with the sexual abuse crisis correctly. That has been one of the things we’ve been able to do in the (Twin Cities) archdiocese is change the culture so that we understand that victims are in fact the people who should be most cared for in that crisis and that the church can actually grow towards health and be part of the solution to this great problem that plagues all of our society.”
Cozzens’ other leadership roles to date include chairman of the executive team for the 2022 Archdiocesan Synod, vicar for Catholic education and overseeing the archdiocesan offices of Latino Ministry, Evangelization and Marriage, Family and Life. He helped found the Seminary Formation Council and serves as president of its board of directors. Cozzens is also the chairman of the board for both NET and St. Paul’s outreach. During his time in Rome, he was the confessor for the Missionaries of Charity congregation founded by Mother Teresa.
Get to know Bishop Cozzens
- Born Aug. 3, 1968
- Born and raised in Denver
- Attended Catholic grade school, high school and college
- Youngest of three children
- Was influenced by the Catholic Charismatic Renewal during his college years
- Avid outdoorsman who enjoys mountain biking, canoeing and cross-country skiing
- Spent summers on his grandparents’ farm in Montana growing up
- Favorite thing to do on his days off: pray
- Plays guitar in a band called The Second Collection with fellow priests
And as chair of the USCCB’s Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, Cozzens is leading a three-year National Eucharistic Revival that will begin in June 2022.
His parents live in Arizona during the winter and Minnesota in the summer. His adopted African-American brother and father of two works in Denver as an attorney. Cozzens’ sister is married with seven children, one of whom is a member of the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus community in New Ulm, Minnesota.
Cozzens missed the papal nuncio’s original phone call Oct. 4 to let him know he’d been selected as Bishop of Crookston because Cozzens was teaching class for the Handmaids.
“I am not surprised,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis , “that Pope Francis would have seen in [Cozzens] the extraordinary priestly gifts that have long been recognized by the priests and faithful of this archdiocese who have come to know him and love him as an energetic and capable shepherd with a huge heart, sharp intellect and unfailing love for Christ and his Church.”