COZZENS, FATHER DONALD (May 17, 1939-December 9, 2021) was a priest, professor, and author who wrote about contemporary issues in the Catholic Church. He was the oldest of four children born to Bernard and Florence (Gaye) Cozzens.
Growing up in Cleveland’s NEWBURGH area, Cozzens expressed a strong desire to join the priesthood as a first grade student at Holy Name Elementary School. After graduating from HOLY NAME HIGH SCHOOL in 1957, he joined Borromeo Seminary. In 1965, he both earned a masters of divinity degree at SAINT MARY SEMINARY and was ordained a priest. He was appointed associate pastor of St. Christopher Parish in Rocky River and parochial vicar of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Akron.
In 1971, Cozzens began a long career in education by serving as a chaplain and religious studies instructor at St. Vincent High School and Our Lady of the Elms. He received a Masters degree in religious education from the University of Notre Dame in 1973 followed by a Ph.D. from Kent State University in 1976. While teaching at URSULINE COLLEGE from 1978 to 1989, he served the Cleveland Catholic Diocese as director of the Newman Ministry and as a Tribunal judge. Bishop Anthony Pilla named him vicar of clergy and religious in 1989.
A year after accepting the role of president-rector and professor of theology at his alma mater, Saint Mary University, in 1996, Cozzens wrote his first book, entitled The Spirituality of the Diocesan Priest. This would lead to four other nonfiction books – The Changing Face of the Priesthood (2000), Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church (2002), Faith That Dares to Speak (2004), Freeing Celibacy (2006), and three novels – Master of Ceremonies (2014), Under Pain of Mortal Sin (2018) and The Cardinal's Assassin (2021). His books tackled controversial topics within Catholicism, for instance, the clergy abuse scandal, leading to interviews on “Meet the Press,” NPR and the BBC.
Father Cozzens nevertheless remained a loyal Catholic priest, in good standing with his superiors. Beginning in 2002, he worked at JOHN CARROLL UNIVERSITY as a religious studies professor and writer in residence. Additionally, he served as a visiting priest at the Church of St. Dominic in SHAKER HEIGHTS as well as a retreat master and spiritual counselor. Cozzens was honored with the 2009 WALKS OF LIFE AWARD by the Irish American Archive Society. He passed away on December 9, 2021 at the age of 82 due to complications arising from COVID-19. He is buried in All Saints Cemetery in Northfield, Ohio.
Daniel Brennan and David Patrick Ryan