Not everyone can say they have met Popes and Saints. Though quite humble about it, Fr. Cyprian Berens, OFM, has photos of himself with Pope John XXIII, Pope John Paul II, and even Blessed Mother Teresa to prove it. He will tell you in his gentle voice that they are “group pictures” taken when he worked in Rome, adding, “One is of Pope John Paul II washing my dirty feet in a Holy Thursday service.”
Cyprian began life as the son of a high-end tailor who was trained in New York. His mother was a homemaker and two brothers and a sister rounded out his family. He became acquainted with the Franciscans when he attended Roger Bacon High School and transferred to St. Francis Seminary. Ordained in 1951, he served his first six years as Associate Pastor in Illinois parishes.
In 1957, Rome called him to serve as the Assistant Treasurer and Secretary to the Minister General of the Franciscan Curia. “It took me all three years to learn Italian”, he said. He also used to pick up Mother Teresa from the airport and they would talk business. He preached at her six Missionaries of Charity houses in Rome and heard the confessions of her novices every week.
Upon completing this curial assignment, he served in varied duties, including director of men discerning life as a friar, rector and teacher at Duns Scotus, Mich. But his reputation of competence caught up with him and he was again called to Rome to be General Treasurer of the Franciscan Curia. From the General Curia Fr. Cyprian was sent to Florence, Italy, for four years. He was assigned as Director of the Collegio San Buenaventura, a renowned research institution, and was also Superior of the House.
After his return to the United States he served as the Treasurer of St. Leonard College in Centerville, Ohio, as Guardian at St. Anthony's, as Director of Brothers and 13 years as Director of Communications. Then a call to Rome came again where he served as a Penitentiary, an American/Italian speaking Confessor at the Basilica of St. John Lateran. When he returned to the States for the last time, he was named Pastor for 10 years at St. Paul the Apostle in Calumet, Mich.
Cyprian is resident Chaplain Emeritus of the Archbishop Leibold Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Cincinnati. At 91, being “retired” is a misnomer. His days are full saying Mass, preaching, being present to dying residents, counseling retirees, helping new residents adjust, and still driving 140 miles monthly to a prayer group in Madison, Ind. Although he says his memory is slipping, he knows the name of every resident (100-plus) and all the Sisters and workers at the home.