Companions of Christ celebrate 25 years with Mass

| Sharon Wilson | October 25, 2017 | 2 Comments

On Oct. 21, 1992, five young men gathered with Archbishop John Roach and then-Auxiliary Bishop Robert Carlson to read the archbishop-approved decree that formally established the Companions of Christ as a public association of the faithful under canon law.

The men envisioned a priestly fraternity, but at that time none were yet members of the clergy. They were, however, a brotherhood that had sprung from the fledgling Community of Christ the Redeemer, a local charismatic lay association now based in West St. Paul. The men had committed to live together in community, striving to live celibate and prayerful lives.

The association of priests, now some 30 strong, have served in the parishes, seminaries and administrative offices of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. One even serves as a bishop: Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Cozzens.

The Companions of Christ celebrated their 25th anniversary Oct. 11 with Mass at Our Lady of Grace in Edina with Archbishop Bernard Hebda and more than 250 friends and family.

That evening, Bishop Cozzens spoke of the “deep sense of fraternity” as one of the greatest gifts he has received from the Companions.

“I wouldn’t be the priest or bishop that I am today without the support I have received from some of these brothers,” he said.

This priestly fraternity is lived out, whenever possible, with communal living in households of three or more, where they observe a rule of life that includes praying together, common meals and holding each other accountable, as well as taking a yearly retreat together and participating in fraternal groups. Meanwhile, as diocesan priests, they are obedient to the archbishop’s ministry assignments.

“The fraternal groups that meet twice a month are where we share our lives and show our accountability,” Bishop Cozzens said.

A related brotherhood of Companions in Denver is also celebrating 10 years of its chapter association.

Eleven of the archdiocese’s current Companions moved to Minnesota specifically to be part of the fraternity as they discerned and entered the priesthood. Denver-native Bishop Cozzens, who as a bishop still shares a special fraternity with the Companions, is one of those 11.

“There are many practical reasons to be part of the Companions, but there are theological reasons, too,” Father Tony O’Neill, moderator of the Companions, told The Catholic Spirit. “Jesus sent out the disciples two by two. Priesthood is meant to be lived out in fraternity. This is a particular way to live out that fraternity.”

Companions of ChristFather Tony O’Neill, moderator
Father Jon Vanderploeg
Father Jeff Huard
Father Kevin Finnegan
Father Peter Richards
Father Tom Margevicius
Father Michael Becker
Father David Blume
Father Michael Johnson
Father Peter Williams
Father Jonathan Kelly
Father Nathan Laliberte
Father Evan Koop
Father Ben Little
Father Brian Park
Father Luke Marquard
Father Marcus Milless
Father Marc Paveglio
Father Jake Anderson
Father Kyle Kowalczyk
Father Chad VanHoosePriest candidates
Father Michael Daly
Father Joe Kuharski
Father Peter Hughes
Father Matthew Northenscold
Father Joe Zabinski
Father Michael Barsness
Father Tim Sandquist
Father James Stiles

Fraternal relation with Companions
Bishop Andrew Cozzens

It is in these fraternal groups where they share their strengths and weaknesses, and their lives as priest, added Father O’Neill, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake in Mound. “You learn you are loved even in your weaknesses as you are supported by your brother priests.”

At the anniversary event, Bishop Cozzens addressed the Companions, saying, “It is our knowing that we are actually weaker that brings us to seek the fraternity. We live these commitments in order to actually love the people better.”

Sheryl Moran, a parishioner of Our Lady of Grace in Edina, shared her gratitude to the priests at the celebration.

“They live as companions with each other, but also live as companions of Christ,” she said. “They say you become more like those whom you live with.

As Companions of Christ, they strive to become more like Christ. As priests they bring us the sacraments, but they also bring us their presence of who they are, and as they become more Christ-like, they show us by example how we can, too.”

The anniversary celebrations will continue in November when the Companions of Christ in Minnesota and Denver travel to Assisi and Rome, Italy, for a time of prayer, study and fraternity.

More information about the Companions of Christ can be found at where they welcome inquiries by Catholic men interested in the priesthood and accept donations to further their work.

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