Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi Priest
SAINT OF THE DAY
Blessed Cyprian Michael was born in 1903 in Igboezunu near the ancient city of Aguleri in southern Nigeria to an lgbo farming couple, Tabansi and Ejikwevi, who, practising the “traditional religion", named him Iwene. However, in 1909 he was sent to a Christian village named Ndua, where, 3 years later, he was Christened Michael by Irish missionaries.
Studious, ever demanding of himself, Michael possessed a precocious personality and a deep piety. The “school leaving certiﬁcate” he obtained at 16 years of age, qualiﬁed him to teach. He thus taught in Onitsha for 3 years and then was headmaster in Aguleri for another 3 years.
Having finished his philosophy and theology at St Paul‘s Seminary at Igbariam, which he had entered in 1925, Michael was ordained priest on 19 December 1937 by Bishop Charles Heerey at the Cathedral of Onitsha -only the second indigenous priest of Onitsha and the first ever in the Aguleri region!
Michael’s pastoral ministry commenced as Parish Priest ﬁrst in the Umudioka region of Nnewi and then at Akpu until 1949. Shortly thereafter, when Bishop Charles Heerey, a missionary, expressed the desire to have one of his priests embrace the monastic life with a view to establishing a contemplative monastery in his diocese, Fr Tansi instantly showed his willingness. He was thus sent to the Trappist Abbey of Mount St Bernard in Leicestershire, England, where, as a novice he took the name Cyprian and made his solerrm profession on 8 December 1956.
In 1963, with 13 years of valuable experience as a Trappist behind him, just when the time seemed ripe for laying the foundations of a monastery in Nigeria, political compulsions led his superiors to choose neighbouring Cameroon. Though he was initially upset by this setback, he eventually accepted it all as God’s will.
In January 1964, the intense pain in one of his legs was diagnosed as a result of acute thrombosis. However, admitted unconscious on 19 January to the Royal Infirmary of Leicester, tests revealed an aortic neurism, a condition that led to his death the next morning.
Cyprian’s mortal remains, which were laid to rest at Mount St Bernard, were exhumed in 1988 and reburied in the priests’ cemetery near the Cathedral of Onitsha and later transferred to his parish church in Aguleri. He was beatiﬁed by Pope John Paul II in 1998.
Backed by intense prayer, Cyprian’s life was marked by fruitful activity that involved teaching, preaching, catechizing, setting up prayer centres that eventually became parishes, as also shelters for young women and girls for the purpose of Christian formation with a view to preparing them for marriage. He also established with remarkable success, the League of Mary for the moral education of the young.
As a man of God and a man of the people, putting the interests and welfare of others ahead of his own, Blessed Cyprian Michael was an inspiration to everyone in the Nigeria he loved so much.