Download: DON COZZENS Remembered
Donald Cozzens
17 May 1939-9 December 2021
Chris McDonnell La Croix December 2021

We heard this week of the passing of the American priest, teacher and writer, Donald Cozzens. His journey came to a conclusion, a few days back, on December 9th. His has been a significant voice in recent years, always faithful to the Church that was his home yet critical of structures that got in the way of mission. He called out clericalism in no uncertain terms, seeking a more honest vision of priesthood that served the pastoral needs of the people.


His seminal book “The changing face of the priesthood” was first published some twenty one years ago in 2000. It set the tone for his writing in subsequent years, with “Freeing celibacy” and “Notes from the underground” developing his themes. Needless to say his thoughtful criticism received a mixed response from those to whom it was addressed.

His central themes sought to help others address the urgent challenges facing the Church and in particular the priestly vocation in the 21st Century. He did so with unswerving courage and charity; for his perceptive writing we owe Don a debt of gratitude.

Born in 1939, he was ordained to the priesthood for the Cleveland Ohio diocese in 1965. He was to serve as a parish priest for nine years before beginning his teaching career. During the Eighties he taught at the Ursuline College in Cleveland as associate professor of psychology and religious studies until 1989 when he was named as Vicar for clergy and religious in the Cleveland diocese.

He undertook various diocesan responsibilities concluding in June 2001 with his appointment to the faculty of John Carroll University. There he served as visiting professor of religious studies and writer in residence until his recent retirement.

I came to know Don through e-mail when I wrote to thank him for writing “Notes from the underground” It was the start of a correspondence that we maintained over subsequent years. I shared articles and poetry with him to which he always responded with critical encouragement. When his recent novel-The Cardinal’s Assassin-was published he invited me to write one of the cover endorsements of the book which I was more than pleased to do.

Our friendships and passing acquaintances in this life are many and varied. Living in the UK, I was never able to talk with Don face to face but I valued greatly our written exchanges. His was a singular voice of one crying in the wilderness, ever anxious to prepare the way of the Lord. A quick search of You Tube will offer talks and interviews that offer further insight into the thought of this perceptive, humorous priest who served his Church with prayerful honesty and courage over many years. His books are available through Amazon

His death came on December 9th, one day before the anniversary of Thomas Merton’s in 1968. May he now rest in the peace of the Lord in whose service he lived his life as a priest and teacher.



Funeral service details:
Friday, December 17th - 3:00pm Vespers service at the Church of the Gesu, 2470 Miramar Blvd in University Heights, followed by calling hours until 6:30pm.
Saturday, December 18th - 10:30am Mass of the Resurrection at Gesu followed by a reception in the Muldoon Atrium of the Dolan Science Center at John Carroll University.