Bishop will continue to be a friend of priestly fraternity

| Susan Klemond | December 19, 2013 | 0 Comments
Bishop Andrew Cozzens, center, gathers with members of the Companions of Christ after his ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul Dec. 9. Cozzens is a member of the fraternal organization, which is made up of priests and seminarians in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.  Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Bishop Andrew Cozzens, center, gathers with members of the Companions of Christ after his ordination Mass at the Cathedral of St. Paul Dec. 9. Cozzens is a member of the fraternal organization, which is made up of priests and seminarians in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

As part of a small group of men living single for the Lord together in St. Paul while doing evangelization work more than 20 years ago, Bishop Andrew Cozzens and the other founders of the Companions of Christ sought to continue their fraternal way of life as they prepared to become diocesan priests.

After receiving encouragement from then-auxiliary Bishop Robert Carlson (now archbishop of St. Louis) that they could have prayer, fellowship and formation together as diocesan priests, the Companions sought canonical status within the Church and received it in 1992.

No longer sharing one household because they serve in different capacities around the archdiocese, the Companions continue to share life as they now number 17 priests and five seminarians in Minnesota with another chapter growing in Denver. Bishop Cozzens long was involved in the Companions’ leadership, and for the past several years directed formation of new members.

The priests and seminarians live together when possible depending on their parish assignments, but all participate in fraternal sharing groups, gather regularly for prayer, fellowship and meetings, and attend annual retreats and conferences.

Though not a religious order, the Companions seek holiness through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, by supporting each other in diocesan priesthood and serving the archdiocese under the authority of Archbishop John Nienstedt, according to Father Jon Vander Ploeg, superior of the Companions of Christ, pastor of St. Lawrence and Newman Center and director of Catholic campus ministry at the University of Minnesota.

Answering the call to holiness

Father Vander Ploeg and Father Thomas Margevicius, also one of the Companions of Christ, were chosen by Bishop Cozzens to serve as chaplains at his episcopal ordination. Father Vander Ploeg presented him for episcopal ordination.

Up until his ordination, Bishop Cozzens was involved in many aspects of the Companions’ life, Father Vander Ploeg said.

“I would say he’s very invested in relationships, very invested in living the ideal of life, of really pursuing the Lord so he can respond to the call of holiness,” he said. “But he does it with joy.”

Bishop Cozzens will no longer be under the Companions’ leadership, but he said recently he will continue to be a friend of the Companions now that he is a member of the episcopacy.

“My personal experience is just a lot of gratitude to the Lord for allowing me to have these deeply committed fraternal relationships that [have] supported me in living the priesthood, which is not always an easy life,” Bishop Cozzens said in an interview this spring.

The bishop’s new role is a gift of the Lord to the Church, as he is a very good man, Father Vander Ploeg said. It will be a big change to not have Bishop Cozzens in Companions leadership positions, but the Lord will bring the priestly fraternity to a new place, he said.

“I think it’s an adjustment for us but one where, when something’s in God’s will, good comes out of it,” Father Vander Ploeg said. “We view it as a great gift for the Church, and the Lord will work on every level including in us for what he desires.”

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Category: Bishop Cozzens