What’s it like to be a bishop? ‘Lots of excitement,’ Cozzens says

| December 9, 2014 | 0 Comments

Bishop Andrew Cozzens offered the following comments on his first year of ministry as an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Bishop Andrew Cozzens talks with members of the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus, including Mother Mary Clare, center, at the Rediscover: Catholic Celebration Oct. 4 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Bishop Cozzens helped start the order, which is in the Diocese of New Ulm. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Bishop Andrew Cozzens talks with members of the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus, including Mother Mary Clare, center, at the Rediscover: Catholic Celebration Oct. 4 at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Bishop Cozzens helped start the order, which is in the Diocese of New Ulm. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Q. What has this last year been like for you?

A. “I would say that this year has been like somebody took away my old life and gave me a new life. In a certain way, everything has been new — many new experiences, many new challenges. Of course, this year has been a challenging year for the whole archdiocese. I have felt that profoundly as I have entered into leadership in the archdiocese. It’s been a year of lots of excitement. I got to meet the pope twice. It’s also been a year of some fear, stress and joy, and a year of lots of prayer. It’s been a very busy year where I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people from around the archdiocese and to attend a lot of wonderful events and to see the great work that’s going on around the whole archdiocese.”

Q. What has been the greatest joy in being a bishop?

A. “The greatest joy has been being with the people and getting to see all of the wonderful things that happen around our archdiocese and our parishes, and to see the many faithful people; getting to confirm over 1,000 young people. I especially enjoyed those confirmation ceremonies, just to get to be with the young people of our archdiocese.”

Q. What has been the greatest challenge?

A. “The greatest challenge has been learning to deal with new levels of stress, which have come from the new levels of responsibility. The life of a bishop is a life that often has to deal with crisis, and that has been especially true for us in this past year. That has certainly been a challenge for me. It’s also been an area where I’ve been able to see the Lord’s provision and how he cares for me and for the local Church.”

BishopCozzensQ. What has it been like working side by side with Archbishop John Nienstedt and Bishop Lee Piché?

A. “It’s been a great joy to be able to work with Archbishop Nienstedt and Bishop Piché. I immediately felt welcomed into the leadership of the archdiocese and trusted as a fellow leader with the archbishop and Bishop Piché.

I also was amazed at how much Archbishop Nienstedt consults and seeks advice from others in the difficult decisions that he has to make. And, I was grateful to be able to stand by his side in the many difficulties of this last year. I’ve seen that the other bishops of this diocese are men who really care about the flock that they shepherd. They are also men of deep prayer, and that’s been inspiring to me.”

Q. What has been the biggest surprise about being a bishop?

A. “I’ve been surprised at how many people recognize me as a bishop when I’m in the airport or in other places. A lot more people seem to know me now than when I was a priest. So, one feels a lot more like a public person. That’s been surprising.

I’ve also been surprised at how many people have told me that they’re praying for me. That’s been a great encouragement, to know that people all over the archdiocese pray every day for their bishops.”

Q. You have taken on a role as a spokesperson for the archdiocese in the area of clergy sexual abuse. What has that been like?

A. “Obviously, at times being a spokesperson for the clergy sex abuse that has happened in the past in the archdiocese has been a difficulty. Of course, most of the cases of abuse that have come forward in this past year because of the statute of limitations being lifted in Minnesota are cases that happened a long time ago. So, many times, I haven‘t always been able to answer questions about those cases since they were things that happened under other leadership.

I can say that I have been very marked in this past year by the time that I have spent listening to victims of clergy sexual abuse. In some ways, that has been one of the most difficult things, but also one of the things that has helped me to grow. I’ve really seen how, in some ways, the abuse of a young person by a priest is worse than any other kind of abuse because it has the power to prevent the person from coming back to God himself, who is the healer and the one who wants to offer healing to victims of abuse. So, when the abuse is done in the name of God, it’s perhaps worse than anything else.

I’ve been grateful, though, that I have been able to speak on behalf of the archdiocese and to apologize for the terrible things that were done by some priests. These are obviously things that should have never been done, and I’ve been grateful in some way to try to be a part of reconciliation and healing for victims, even though I recognize we still have a long way to go.”

Q. What would you say to people who are hoping for healing and closure on this?

A. “I would say that it’s important not to hope for closure on the clergy sexual abuse too quickly. Of course, many of us would like to get this chapter of our history behind us, but we must make sure that we deal with this issue rightly and justly, especially for the victims. This means that we have to always keep the victims first in our mindset, as we attempt to bring healing and closure. Therefore, it will take time. Sometimes, these wounds take a long time to heal. I hope that everyone in the archdiocese, even as we seek to bring closure to this chapter, will remember what a terrible thing clergy sexual abuse is and help us all to be vigilant so that the young people in our churches are always safe and have their dignity respected as they deserve.”

Q. What new challenges lie ahead for you?

A. “I continue to be challenged by the number of demands that are placed upon me as a bishop. And so, I continue to need to find ways to balance my schedule so that I can do practical human things like exercise. I also continue to need to grow in leadership skills so that I can help others to fulfill their baptismal call to holiness and service in the Church. And, I’m sure there are many challenges ahead that the Lord has in store that I don’t know about.”

Q. What are your thoughts on further involvement in Latino ministry?

A. “It’s very important for the whole archdiocese to understand how important our Latino brothers and sisters are. In this past year, I’ve gotten to almost all of our Spanish-speaking ministries and parishes in the archdiocese and I’ve been able to see what a valuable contribution our Latino people make to our archdiocese. Right now in the United States, more than 50 percent of school-aged children are Latino. This means that we need to continue to reach out to our Latino brothers and sisters and invite them to full and active participation in the Church. All of us need to understand that we are one family and that they have a valuable contribution to make. I hope that we can continue to train leaders for our Latino community, continue to invite the young people in our Latino community to pursue vocations to priesthood and consecrated life. I also hope that we can get more Latino young people in our Catholic schools. I hope that we can raise up leaders in the Latino community to help us evangelize our brothers and sisters in the local Church.”

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