Sister leads the way for younger brother

| December 19, 2013 | 0 Comments
Bishop Andrew Cozzens, center, gathers with his family for a photo in the Cathedral of St. Paul after his ordination Mass Dec. 9. The others are, from left, Sergei Thomas (foster brother), Jack (father), Judy (mother) and Helen Healy (sister). Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Bishop Andrew Cozzens, center, gathers with his family for a photo in the Cathedral of St. Paul after his ordination Mass Dec. 9. The others are, from left, Sergei Thomas (foster brother), Jack (father), Judy (mother) and Helen Healy (sister). Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Big sisters often push their younger siblings away, fighting for their independence and fending off attempts by a little brother to “tag along.”

Not so with Helen Healy. She made every effort to include her younger brother, even to the point of persuading him to make some of the same choices she did.

This brother is now a bishop — Bishop Andrew Cozzens, who was ordained Dec. 9 at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Helen was there in the front row taking it all in.

Just days later, she reflected on growing up with her brother in Denver. She shared her thoughts in a classroom at Holy Family Academy in St. Louis Park. Fittingly, just down the hallway, her brother was speaking to a kindergarten class that included Helen’s daughter, Shannon. Even now, it’s hard to split up these two siblings, although his role as a bishop eventually could take him to another city or state.

“We fought like brothers and sisters [often do], but we loved each other,” said Helen, 48, of Holy Family parish, who has seven children with her husband, Tim. “We went to the same high school [Green Mountain High School in Colorado] and got involved in singing and doing plays. So, we were involved in musicals, and we both sang in the choir in high school. We had this nice relationship, but I think we really got close when we went to college together.”

The two are three years apart, which meant Andrew was a freshman in high school when Helen was a senior. She helped him run for office his freshman year, then lobbied for him to follow in her footsteps and attend Benedictine College in Kansas. She studied education there and later became a teacher.

“I just had wanted to get him to Benedictine College because Benedictine has the atmosphere where you can really grow in your faith,” she said. “I went to daily Mass and learned so much about my faith in the religion and philosophy courses, and I thought that it would be really great for him to come there. Of course, he did not want to follow his big sister, but he came and visited, and he actually liked Benedictine and he ended up coming to Benedictine.”

Bishop Cozzens holds his nephew, Sean Healy, in a photo taken 17 years ago. Photo courtesy of Judy Cozzens

Bishop Cozzens holds his nephew, Sean Healy, in a photo taken 17 years ago. Photo courtesy of Judy Cozzens

But, she wasn’t done helping to shape his path. She went on to serve on NET Ministries after college and persuaded him to do that, too. Along the way, the two also worked together for a couple of summers at the YMCA in Denver. By that time, their foster brother, Sergei, had joined the family, and he, too, worked with them at the Y.

It was during that time that one of her more interesting memories of Andrew unfolded.

“One day, we were riding home from camp and we ran out of gas,” she said. “We were in a bad part of town. So, we rolled into a gas station and asked the man if he would loan us gas because we had no money. The man looked at us and he wasn’t going to give us gas. I said, ‘Well, what if I leave my brother here as collateral because you know I’ll come back and get him?’ And so, the man gave us $5 worth of gas. I drove home, got the money, came back and got Drew. He was sitting on the curb at the gas station.”

There appear to be no emotional scars from the incident, as Bishop Cozzens continues to spend time with his sister and her family. In fact, it is a regular occurrence.

“He comes over on Sundays to our house [in Edina],” she said. “We have a family dinner together. It’s very important to our family to have a special dinner on Sundays, and my husband cooks most of the time.”

Helen believes her brother’s influence could help facilitate a vocation among her children. Already, her oldest child, daughter AnnMarie, has formed a connection to a women’s religious order in the Diocese of New Ulm, the Handmaids of the Heart of Jesus.

Two years ago, when she was a senior at Providence Academy in Plymouth, she was awarded a $1,000 gift to donate to the charity of her choice after she scored her 1,000th point for the girls basketball team, which that season went on to win the state Class AA championship.

AnnMarie decided to give the money to the Handmaids, an order her uncle helped start. Helen said AnnMarie and her younger sister Megan both have expressed openness to considering a religious vocation. AnnMarie attends Harvard, where she continues to play basketball, while Megan goes to Providence Academy.

While Helen is quick to point out the influence her brother has had on herself and her family, she shies away from any credit for his vocation or success in ministry. Rather, she points to something else as being a key to his pastoral work as a priest, and now, a bishop.

“I saw a change in my brother’s priesthood when he started going to IPF, the Institute of Priestly Formation,” she said. “His relationship with Christ became stronger.”

Not only that, but he also is riding a wave of support that has been cresting ever since he was named to become an auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Helen listened to her brother describe what that has meant to him at a dinner the weekend before his ordination.

“My brother said at the dinner that he feels like he’s the most loved man on earth,” she said. “And, he is, by our family and by his friends and by this diocese. And, I continue to just ask people for their prayers for him to fulfill this vocation.”

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Category: Bishop Cozzens