Fr. Cyprian Davis, OSB, dies on May 18
May 18, 2015
Fr. Cyprian Davis, OSB, monk and priest of Saint Meinrad
Archabbey, St. Meinrad, IN, died on May 18, 2015, at Memorial
Hospital in Jasper. He was 84 and a jubilarian of both profession
Surviving are a cousin and a niece.
Fr. Cyprian was born in Washington, D.C., on September 9, 1930,
to Clarence W. and Evelyn (Jackson) Davis, who named him Clarence
He studied at Saint Meinrad Seminary from 1949 to 1956. Invested
as a novice monk on July 31, 1950, he professed his simple vows
August 1, 1951, and was ordained to the priesthood on May 3,
Fr. Cyprian received a licentiate in sacred theology from The
Catholic University of America in 1957, and the license and the
doctorate in historical sciences from the Catholic University of
Louvain, Belgium, in 1963 and 1977, respectively.
He was professor emeritus of Church history at Saint Meinrad
Seminary and School of Theology, where he had begun teaching in
He also served as an archivist of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, of
the Swiss-American Benedictine Congregation, and of the National
Black Catholic Clergy Caucus, of which in 1968 he was a founding
member. He also belonged to the American Catholic Historical
Association and the Society of American Archivists.
In addition to dozens of articles, book chapters, and
encyclopedia and dictionary entries, Fr. Cyprian wrote six books.
But it is his 1990 work for which he will be especially
remembered. The History of Black Catholics in the United
States is a 350-page study of the American Black Catholic
experience from the early Spanish explorations to 1970, and it is
regarded as the essential study of the American Black Catholic
Among the honors he received for this book were the John Gilmary
Shea Award in 1990, and the Brother Joseph Davis Award in 1991. Fr.
Cyprian was preparing a revised edition of this work at the time of
In addition, Fr. Cyprian contributed to the second draft of
Brothers and Sisters to Us,the 1979 pastoral letter on
racism published by the United States Catholic bishops, and he
helped write the initial draft of What We Have Seen and
Heard, the 1984 pastoral letter on evangelization from the
black Catholic bishops.
The Office of the Dead will be prayed at 7 p.m. on Wednesday,
May 20, in the Archabbey Church, followed by visitation until 9
p.m. Visitation on Thursday will be from 8 to 9:45 a.m. in the
Archabbey Church, followed by the funeral Mass at 10 a.m. Burial
will follow in the Archabbey Cemetery. All times are Central