As NET leader, young Cozzens had clear sense of direction

| Susan Klemond | December 18, 2013 | 0 Comments
Then-Father Andrew Cozzens talks with Nathan Metzinger, who was training to be a NET missionary, in this photo from 1997.  Photo courtesy of NET Ministries

Then-Father Andrew Cozzens talks with Nathan Metzinger, who was training to be a NET missionary, in this photo from 1997. Photo courtesy of NET Ministries

During the long van rides between NET youth retreats in 1991 and 1992, Andrew Cozzens and the team he co-led had time to reflect on faith, evangelization and their vocational calls.

When the challenging year of learning and sharing their faith ended, he and another male teammate discerned a call to the priesthood, while a female teammate became a religious sister.

Besides Bishop Cozzens, nine of the 89 Netters from that year entered priesthood or religious life — six priests and four women religious.

It was an exceptional year, according to Mark Berchem, founder and executive director of National Evangelization Team (NET) Ministries, which trains teams of young adults to lead youth retreats around the country.

“There was some real good camaraderie among the young men, in terms of talking about vocation,” he said.

Clear thinker

Father Chris Kuhn wasn’t thinking seriously about priesthood while on NET with Cozzens, but the future bishop was.

“We had lots of long discussions,” said Father Kuhn, now pastor of St. Mary in Elgin, Ill. “I’m certain he was important and instrumental in my own vocation to the priesthood because he got me thinking about it more often at a very influential time in my life.”

Bishop Cozzens and co-leader Marcella Weisbruch made retreat and travel decisions for their team of 11.

“He had a real gentle touch with his leadership style,” Father Kuhn said. “He has got a very orderly mind. He thinks very clearly.”

Patient with team members and retreat-attendees, the bishop seemed to understand quickly what his own supervisors expected, said Louis Hall, who co-supervised Bishop Cozzens’ NET team.

Bishop Cozzens also led the men on his team pastorally, Berchem said. “You could see even in the early years that he really had a pastor’s heart in the way he cared for his guys — he rallied people really well,” he said.

Especially helpful on the team’s travels to about 100 retreats was Bishop Cozzens’ strong sense of direction, Father Kuhn said. He would never get lost.

Along with a good spatial sense of direction, Bishop Cozzens explained Church teaching while traveling to retreats and has offered sound spiritual direction to many, said Weisbruch, who lives in Temple, Texas.

“He’s not only good at directions in the van and taking us places on NET, but even still in my life being that spiritual director and giving those great words of wisdom,” she said. “I leave so changed after talking to him, and better.”

Deep love for Christ

The bishop also has been good with young people and presents the Gospel without compromise while making it appealing, Berchem said.

Since his own NET days, Bishop Cozzens has returned to lead talks and help with NET training, as well as preside annually at a Lifeline Mass. He positively influenced NET through his interest in strengthening the role of the sacraments and liturgy during staff training and debriefing, Hall said.

“He has 30 years to serve as a bishop,” Berchem said. “That’s a long time to serve. He’s incredibly gifted. He’s got a deep, deep love for Christ and for the Church. He’s going to be a great shepherd.”


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Category: Bishop Cozzens