Cyprian Michael was born in 1903 in Igboezunu near the ancient city of Aguleri in southern Nigeria to an Igbo farming couple, who, practising the “traditional religion”, named him Iwene. However, in 1909 he was sent to a Christian village named Ndua, where, three years later, he was Christened Michael by Irish missionaries.
Michael possessed a precocious personality and deep piety. The “School Leaving Certificate” he obtained at 16 years of age, qualified him to teach. He thus taught in Onitsha for three years and then was headmaster in Aguleri for another three years before joining the seminary in 1925.
In 1937, Michael became the second indigenous priest of Onitsha to be ordained and the first-ever in the Aguleri region! He ministered as Parish Priest 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, Father Tansi instantly expressed willingness. He was thus sent to the Trappist Abbey of Mount Saint Bernard in Leicestershire, England, where, as a novice, he made his solemn profession in 1956, taking the name Cyprian.
In 1963, with 13 years of valuable experience as a Trappist behind him, he laid the foundation of a monastery in Cameroon. But in 1964, he was diagnosed with acute thrombosis and was admitted unconscious to the Royal Infirmary of Leicester, where tests revealed an aortic neurism, a condition that led to his death. His mortal remains laid to rest at Mount Saint 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 Saint John Paul II in 1998.
Backed by intense prayer, Cyprian’s life was marked by fruitful activity that involved preaching, catechizing, setting up prayer centres that eventually became parishes, apart from shelters for young women and girls for the purpose of Christian formation in preparation for marriage as also the League of Mary for the moral education of the young.