Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens, 53, is the Bishop of Crookston, Minnesota. He grew up in Denver, Colorado, the youngest of three children in a devout Catholic family. His father was an aerospace engineer and his mother a school teacher.
He is a graduate of Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas. He was active in the pro-life organization Operation Rescue, and was arrested seven times and jailed for two weeks for physically blocking access to abortion clinics. He was also a missionary with NET ministries and is currently chairman of its board of directors. During his time as a missionary, the future Bishop Cozzens visited the Diocese of Crookston, putting on retreats in parishes and schools; he would return as Bishop of Crookston in 2021.
The bishop has also been active with Companions of Christ, a fraternity of diocesan priests in Saint Paul, and worked for Saint Paul’s Outreach leading college Bible study groups.
He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis in 1997. He served as a parochial vicar, earned advanced degrees in Rome and taught at Saint Paul Seminary, where he had been a student. He was ordained an auxiliary bishop in 2013, during a time when the archdiocese was undergoing a crisis related to the handling of clergy sex abuse of minors cases.
Among his other activities, he is chairman of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis and will lead a three-year National Eucharistic Revival that will kick off the Feast of Corpus Christi in June 19, 2022.
CWR: Can you tell us about your upbringing?
Bishop Cozzens: One of the significant stories I share is regarding my birth. When my mother was 20 weeks pregnant with me, her water broke. Her doctor wanted to induce labor and abort me, saying that tests showed I would be a severely deformed child—a “freak” was the word he used.
Thank goodness my parents were devout Catholics and asked for a new doctor. The second doctor told my mother that if she spent the next 20 weeks in bed there was a good chance I’d come out healthy, and that is what happened. I was born with severe allergies, which I still have, but otherwise I have no health defects.
My parents’ insurance didn’t cover the cost of the treatment, but a funny thing happened. My mother’s second doctor made a bet with the first doctor that I would come out healthy. The loser would cover the cost of the medical treatment. So, as it turned out, the first doctor ended up paying the costs related to my birth.
Because I had severe asthma, my family moved from Connecticut to Colorado, where there was an asthma research center and a better climate for an asthmatic. …
In first grade, a priest came to my classroom. He was an off-the-boat Irish Monsignor. He invited me into the hallway, where I had my first confession. I also had my first communion a year early. He was turning age 70 and retiring, and wanted me to serve Mass for him.
He stayed close to my family, and it wasn’t long before I wanted to be a priest like Monsignor. He was a great example to me. He had a house in the mountains near Lake Granby, where he enjoyed his retirement.
He was the archbishop’s troubleshooter. He’d work nine months of the year. If there was a problem in the archdiocese, the archbishop would send him in to calm things down. Then during three summer months, he’d fish. I and another young man would serve Mass for him and fish every day; I went away from that relationship wanting to be a priest. He was a very holy man.
After I was born, my mother was unable to have more children, so my parents became foster parents. … We’d welcome troubled kids. One of these young people returned and was adopted by us when he was 15. His name is Serge, an African-American. Today, he’s an attorney in Denver with two sons.
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