God was to touch the heart of Iwene Tansi very early in his youth, but as always God's Ways are not always mans way! Iwene Tansi was born in Nigeria in a village called Onitsha, in the year 1903. His parents, Tabansi and Ejilowevi were not Christian, but when his father was arrested this had a profound affect on the Tansi family, in that the father vowed that none of his children would be subject to such humiliation!
So though both Iwene's parents were not Christian they sent their children to Christian schools to be educated, so that they may prosper more than their parents and have a good start in life. This Christian education would affect the young Iwene profoundly, as he developed a very high and intense form of prayer, which often left him in tears, when he contemplated the Lord's suffering. This would often lead other young boys his age to beat him up, as they thought him a cry baby.
But the young Iwene took no note and continued his prayer life as he knelt each day in front of the Tabernacle in solitude and meditative prayer. Tears of joy and also of sorrow would fall down the face of this holy young boy as he sought to try and alleviate the pain that our Lord had suffered on behalf of sinners. The depth of his prayer life was also followed by his deeply humble behaviour towards all who knew him; Iwene never held grudges and treated all with respect and kindness in his simple manner.
In the year 1912 Iwene is baptised and given the Christian Michael, after this Michael would continue his schooling at Holy Trinity primary School. After completing his studies there he went on to gain his school leavers Certificate at St. Josephs School which allowed him to teach professionally. Many of his fellow teachers and students noted Michaels Iwene's love of prayer and how often he could be found kneeling in deep prayer often having open conversations with Our Lady, when he thought he was alone. Michael had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother and always carried a Rosary on his person.
But even though Michael’s prayer life was intense, he was not a dour or downhearted man, but one of quiet manner, gentle humour and a generous spirit towards all. If anybody needed help it would be Michael who would lend a hand at whatever needed doing, with a cheerfulness that lifted the hearts of all who knew him. But even though Michael Iwene displayed a cheerful countenance he also undertook severe personal penances for love of God and sinners. He also was very strict with his students and encouraged all to lead a more ascetic lifestyle, and to rise to the challenge of their studies. Perhaps Michael understood that the only way out of poverty was to be educated, and so he wasted no time in instilling the virtues to his young students, sometimes with the rod, which was acceptable discipline in that particular Era.
So it was in the year 1925 Michael entered the Seminary and upon completing his studies at St. Paul's he was Ordained a Priest in 1937, and though he was not a theologian, which would trouble him, he fully understood what it means to live and spread the Good News to all he met. He served as Parish Priest in Eastern Nigeria for the next 13 years, serving the people in the area with great devotion and tirelessness and making sure that all knew the Catholic Faith.
For in this particular part of Nigeria many pagan customs were still kept such as living together before marriage which was described as 'trial marriages', Father Michael fought vigorously to re-educate the people into accepting the need for Holy Matrimony before becoming one in flesh. So it was that Fr. Michael would often walk miles in order to teach the young people the importance of all the Sacraments of the Church while emphasising the Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of Marriage.
But deep in his heart, Father Michael longed for a more secluded life, even from a child he had shown a predilection for solitude and a longing for Monastic living. And so it was that in 1950 Fr. Michael left for England to study the Monastic spirituality in order to return to his own homeland and begin one there. This fuelled Fr. Michael’s zealous nature of love toward God but it also challenged him in that back in his homeland he had obtained a certain prominence whereas in England he became another brother Monk with a new name, Father Cyprian.
Though he struggled with a few issues, still he knew that this was where God wished for him to be and so Father Cyprian took to this new Monastic Rule of life like a duck to water. Though he strove hard to study and learn in order to bring the Monastic Rule back to his beloved homeland, this unfortunately did not eventuate as those in authority ruled that a Monastic Order would begin in Cameroon. This was a disappointment to Father Cyprian, but he humbly accepted it, for from his early years, as Iwene he knew God did indeed work in mysterious Ways!
And though Father Cyprian longed to join his fellow Priests in Cameroon this was not to be as he fell ill and was unable to recover.
Father Cyprian died in 1964.
Blessed Father Cyprian was beatified in 1998 by Pope John Paul II.
Peace of Christ to ALL
Copyright © 2006 Marie Smith. All rights reserved.