Fr. Casimir Cypher
Michael Cypher (he would later be given the name “Casimir” as his religious name in the Franciscan Order) was born in Medford, WI, in 1941. He entered the Conventual Franciscan Friars’ Minor Seminary in Crystal Lake, IL as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1968.
After serving as a parish priest in Rockford, IL, and Hermosa Beach, CA, he received permission to fulfill his long-time dream: serving as a missionary.
Ministering in Honduras
start of the unrest
Arriving in Honduras in 1973, Friar Casimir lived and ministered in the remote, rugged state of Olancho—the “Wild West” of Honduras. A little more than a year later, he was caught up in violent unrest. Oppressed peasant farmers (or “Campesinos”) had been organizing land reform, angering the ruling military dictatorship and its wealthy, land-owning supporters.
The Catholic Church supported this struggle for justice, leading to nation-wide persecution. The military searched retreat and catechetical centers throughout the country, seized radios, and arrested priests, religious, and laypeople working with the Church.
The execution OF FR. CASIMIR
On June 25, 1975, Fr. Casimir drove his pickup truck into the City of Juticalpa for repairs, unaware that the National Union of Campesinos had organized a demonstration that day for better implementation of land reform legislation.
Hearing gunshots, Fr. Casimir ran toward the commotion. Knowing that he was a priest, soldiers arrested him. He was stripped in the town square, ridiculed, and beaten. Along with another priest, Fr. Ivan Betancort, two of Fr. Ivan’s companions, and ten Campesino leaders, Fr. Casimir was brutally tortured and executed. His body and those of the others killed with him were thrown into a deep well and dynamited in an attempt to cover up the massacre. He was only 34 years old.
The true son of St. Francis
Inspiring us to love and serve
This night of diabolical violence is known in Honduras as the “Los Horcones” (or “Pitchforks,” after the name of the ranch on which the killings took place) massacre.
A true son of St. Francis, his life was characterized by simplicity, personal poverty, and a good sense of humor. He painted, wrote poetry, and loved serving the poor and disadvantaged. May his example inspire us to love and serve Christ in the poor and marginalized!