Published January 1, 2004
In honor of Blessed Cyprian Michael Iwene Tansi, the Nigerian Catholic Community of Atlanta will celebrate a Mass followed by a reception at St. Anthony of Padua Church on Sunday, Jan. 11, at 2 p.m.
Blessed Tansi was born of humble parentage in Aguleri, Anambra State, Nigeria, in 1903. He grew up to become a teacher and then headmaster before he decided, against the wishes of his parents, to enter seminary. Ordained in 1937, he was a dedicated priest and initiated various pastoral methods for taking care and ministering to the spiritual needs of individuals and groups in the church, including The Mary League and St. Anne Societies, which form part of the basis of catechetics in the Catholic Church in Nigeria today.
His message in all he did and taught pointed to other things and the other world. He lived for God, which was his guiding principle. He once said, “if you want to be a Christian at all, you can as well live entirely for God.” Drawn to the monastic life, he was admitted into Mount Saint Bernard Abbey in Leicester, England, in 1950, where he continued and maintained a total fidelity to his call in solitary, whole-hearted surrender to God in prayer and penance. Father Tansi died at the Leicester Royal Infirmary on Jan. 20, 1964 of coronary thrombosis and was buried there in the monk’s cemetery. At the news of his death, many telegrams were sent to both Nigeria and Mt. Saint Bernard Abbey, some of which predicted the cause of his canonization.
In 1979, then archbishop of Onitsha, Nigeria, Francis Cardinal Arinze, started the preliminary process for his canonization, and a postulator for the cause was appointed. In 1982, the Father Tansi Solidarity Prayer Movement, a Catholic lay Apostolate Association, consisting of men and women who identified themselves with the aspirations of the postulation, was founded to help in promoting the cause. In 1986, the process for his canonization was officially opened by the archbishop of Onitsha. A tribunal was formally constituted to investigate his life and virtues, and witnesses were called upon to testify. Soon after, Father Tansi’s remains were exhumed from Mt. St. Bernard Abbey, at the request made by the archbishop of Onitsha to the sacred Congregation for the Cause of the Saints in the Vatican. His remains were re-interred in the priest’s cemetery at the Holy Trinity Cathedral compound, Onitsha, in October 1986.
The work of the tribunal was completed on May 5, 1990, and the final document subsequently sent to the Sacred Congregation for the Cause of the Saints.
On March 22, 1998, the Holy Father beatified him at Oba airport near Onitsha, setting him on the path to sainthood.
St. Anthony of Padua Church is located at 928 Ralph D. Abernathy Blvd., SW, Atlanta. For information call chairman Ifeanyi Anikpe at (770) 941-7199 or secretary Boniface Otor at (678) 596-5913.