Rev Peter DiSantos, Pastor at Grace Church in Dover, MA, is a distant relative of St Nunzio Sulprizio, one of the saints canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday. He spoke with Sr Bernadette Reis about what it is like having a saint in the family.
Among his relatives are some notable and “colorful” characters, Rev DiSantos said. In addition to Nunzio Sulprizio, one of his great uncles was Sicilian Cardinal Luigi Ferlisi. His uncle, John Volpe, former governor of Massachusetts and US Ambassador to the Holy See may have been present at Nunzio Sulprizio’s beatification in 1963. “It’s been an honorable thing to have people such as this in the family”, he said.
Nunzio’s story passed down in the family
Although none of Rev DiSantos’ immediate relatives had ever met Nunzio, he was a topic of discussion at family gatherings. Rev DiSantos described how his family passed down Nunzio Sulprizio’s story:
“[His name] would always come up on the holidays or at family gatherings. We talked about our Italian heritage and the little villages the families came from. Then Luigi Furlisi, the Cardinal, would be brought up. Nunzio was a little bit less understood. Of course, he didn’t live very long and there were legends and stories, and they seemed to change depending on which relative was telling the story.”
Rev DiSantos says that knowing that there was a saint in the family was not something that he and his relatives wore “like a badge of pride”. Rather, he says, “it was more like a challenge for us to do a little better”.
What’s it like having a saint in the family?
Many people have told Rev DiSantos that it’s only natural that he should have a saint in the family since DiSantos means “of the saints”. He said it is also an honor and humbling at the same time. “It helps me to try to be a little bit better of a person, to be a little holier, to be a little bit more faithful and loving and compassionate to people. I think those are the attributes of a saint.”
Passing on the news
Rev DiSantos has been passing on the news to other relatives. “They’re all kind of surprised,” he says. “They’re pretty excited.”