By PEGGY MOEN
MINNEAPOLIS — “What made Pope Francis choose me?. . . I honestly don’t know,” said Bishop Andrew Cozzens when The Wanderer asked him what the Pope looks for in choosing priests for the episcopacy. Cozzens was ordained an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis last December 9, at age 45.
He was at the Church of St. Helena here for the 18th Annual Benefit Banquet for The Catholic Servant, a monthly Catholic publication, on May 21.
He thought the Holy Father might have chosen him because of his work with the Missionaries of Charity, showing “a love for the poor,” or because he “had some background in the charismatic renewal and works of evangelization.”
Or, it could have been because of his “love for the priesthood,” as shown by his doctoral dissertation on “Imago Vivens Iesu Christi Sponsi Ecclesiae: The Priest as a Living Image of Jesus Christ the Bridegroom of the Church Through the Evangelical Counsels.”
Bishop Cozzens earned his doctorate in sacred theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. He is now an assistant professor of sacramental theology at the St. Paul Seminary.
The nuncio called him on October 1, 2013 to tell him the Pope had chosen him to be an auxiliary bishop.
Both in his interview with The Wanderer and in his talk at the banquet, Bishop Cozzens recalled being “nervous and shocked” when he got the phone call.
But he felt consoled because October 1 is the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux. He recalled “her encouragement to confidence” in the Lord, and her great desire to give all to the Lord.
In his talk and in the interview, he warned against interpreting the Pope and the Church through the media, as that will not lead to faith and confidence.
“I’ve learned not to get my understanding of the Church through the popular media,” he told The Wanderer. Rather, he learns about the Church from the Church.
After all, he said, Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio wasn’t on any media radar screens during the 2013 conclave, but he was on the screens of the cardinal electors.
That new Pope’s teaching on the new evangelization was the subject of Bishop Cozzens’ talk at The Catholic Servant banquet.
Pointing out that the new evangelization began with Pope Paul VI, Cozzens explained that Pope Francis “has a particular style,” but the content is the same as it has been from the start.
Francis’ approach, he said, consists of four calls to us: 1) to get out of our “comfort zones” in evangelization efforts; 2) to encounter others with our love of Christ; 3) to keep evangelization rooted in prayer, as “evangelization itself is the fruit of prayer”; 4) to remember that “the Resurrection is always active.”
On the first point, he stressed that Francis “doesn’t want the Church sitting on its laurels, waiting for people to come to us.” Rather, like the Good Shepherd, we should “go out and find the other 99.”
Encountering others takes seeing the difference between “knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus.”
The hard sayings that people have trouble accepting, he said, “only make sense in light of the paradigm of Christ.” Jesus shows us “the value of self-emptying love.”
“What kind of love would not speak of love?” he asked. If we don’t have this desire, we need to pray to the Lord to “open up our cold hearts.”
Finally, “Christ’s Resurrection is not an event of the past.” It shines in the midst of darkness, in difficult times, as in the St. Paul Archdiocese, beset by accusations of mishandling and cover-ups of clerical abuse cases.
The 2013 announcement of Bishop Cozzens’ appointment came in the midst of accusations against the archdiocese, as the local media noted.
Then and in his interview with The Wanderer, he expressed his hope to help in the healing process.
From the inside of the archdiocese, he told The Wanderer, “I can see that we are very committed to taking whatever steps are necessary to make sure our young people are safe within our Catholic environments — and that has been a lot of work . . . but we have really strengthened that process.”
Also, he sees a determination to “make sure that those who have been victims receive compassion and care from the Church.”
“We realize that it’s very important to put victims first…because we want to bring healing.”
As institutions outside the Catholic Church have faced these same crises, he hopes that the Church “can be a part of healing the culture in general.”
We need “confidence in God who is able to bring good out of evil” and “we know there is no need to hide the evil because we know God will bring good out of it.”
On a positive development in the St. Paul Archdiocese — and throughout the Church in the U.S. — Bishop Cozzens pointed to the renewal of seminaries and priestly formation.
This, he said, is “thanks to the great work of St. John Paul II” and his 1992 apostolic exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis.
“We’re in the grateful position in the United States of having strong theological formation in our seminaries.”
That human and spiritual formation of seminarians needs, he said, “to make sure that our priests are well-integrated and can cope with the complex challenges our culture places before them.”
Similarly, we now have more “canon law colleges” that follow the mandatum and administer the Oath of Fidelity.
“The beauty of [these] Catholic colleges . . . is that they are producing young people who are informed witnesses for the new evangelization — the sort of generation that Pope Francis is looking for.”
Bishop Cozzens graduated in 1991 from one such school — Benedictine College in Atchison, Kans. — and credits its philosophy department with giving him “an excellent philosophical foundation .t. . that really helped me when I came to study theology in a seminary.”
Since his time there, “Benedictine has only been strengthened.”
While he was a student there, he “got very involved in the pro-life movement…and ended up in jail couple of times…for blocking the entrances to abortion clinics.”
Bishop Cozzens knows of several lives that were saved through those efforts.
“The pro-life movement, despite some seeming failures on the political level,” such as with health-care laws, “continues to make good progress on convincing the hearts and minds of young people,” he said.
The media might not see this progress, said the bishop, but it is real all the same.
He likened the pro-life movement to the widow’s mite in Scripture. Pro-lifers’ work might not seem like much in terms of success, but Jesus can “see the larger impact. . . . The impact is big.”
Overall, “we always have to look with eyes of faith,” said Bishop Cozzens.
At the banquet, The Catholic Servant presented Fr. James Reidy, a retired professor of English literature, with its St. John Paul II Catholic Servant of Third Millennium Award.
As Fr. Reidy was unable to attend the banquet, John Sondag, publisher/editor of The Catholic Servant, gave him the award through a phone hookup.
“I’m most grateful to accept this award,” said Fr. Reidy. “It is indeed a great honor.”
The Catholic Servant celebrated its 20th year of publishing at the banquet, which 126 people attended.