By Tim Harfmann
Tony Evangelista owns Il Posto Italian Restaurant in Bergen Beach, Brooklyn and is planning a big celebration because his distant cousin, Nunzio Sulprizio, is being elevated to sainthood on October 14th.
Tony referred to him as “the beato,” which means blessed in Italian.
“The beato’s mother’s name was Rosa Luciani. My great grandmother’s name was Filomena Luciani,” Tony said.
Nunzio was born in 1817 and became an orphan as a child. He later lived with his uncle, but was abused, taken out of school and forced to work as a blacksmith.
Nunzio eventually contracted an incurable disease in his leg, spent years in a hospital and died in 1836 at the age of 19.
“He said, ‘my suffering is nothing compared to what Jesus suffered.’ That was his philosophy,” said Tony.
Nunzio was gone at a young age, but his legacy was not forgotten.
“My grandfather talked about the beato since I could remember,” Tony said.
Tony has carried a worn picture of his cousin around for decades because he feels a special connection to Nunzio.
Tony remembered that when his own dad was in the hospital, his mother put a picture of Nunzio in the bed with him.
“The next day, he was diagnosed with three broken ribs. Believe it or not, the picture she put with him was stuck right to where the ribs were broken,” said Tony.
He listens to a special song every morning that’s dedicated to his cousin.
“In the song it says, ‘an angel from God came and took him to heaven.’ That part gets to me,” Tony said.
To honor Nunzio, the Brooklynite printed prayer cards for the special occasion, and he plans on hanging a mural of Nunzio in the restaurant.
Monsignor John Delendick will be one of the people there to celebrate. He is the pastor of Saint Jude Church in Canarsie, Brooklyn.
“When he first told me this was going to happen, I said, ‘this is huge! Biggest thing that ever happened around here!”
“To me, I consider myself blessed. I think a lot of it is from the beato, Nunzio,” Tony said.
The 19th-century Italian was canonized along five other new saints, including Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Oscar Romero.