Nunzio Sulprizio was born on 13 April 1817 to Domenico Sulprizio (who was born in Popoli) and Rosa Luciani just after Easter, in Pescara, Italy. His father died when Nunzio was only three years old. Nunzio’s mother remarried, but his stepfather paid no attention to him. Still, Nunzio faithfully attended Mass, prayed, and studied the lives of the saints. Their stories helped him learn how to live a holy, faith-filled life.
His mother died in 1823 and he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother Anna Rosaria Luciani del Rossi who was illiterate but firm in the faith. The two often took walks together and attended Mass on a regular basis. He also began to attend the school for poor students that Father Fantacci managed; his grandmother later died in 1826. It was following this that his uncle – Domenico Luciani took him on as an apprentice blacksmith. His uncle was harsh on him and often left him without proper nourishment and did not feed him if he perceived that Nunzio needed either discipline or correction. He sent Nunzio to run errands regardless of the distance which put a great strain upon him. He was also beaten or cursed if his uncle did not like how he did his errands. The work was too much for him due to his age and he contracted a disease in 1831. This occurred one winter morning when his uncle sent him to the slopes of Rocca Tagliata for supplies. That evening he became exhausted and had a swollen leg and a burning fever forcing him to bed. He did not mention this to his uncle though the next morning found he could no longer stand. His uncle was indifferent to his suffering. His condition was later diagnosed as gangrene in one leg. He was hospitalized first in L’Aquila between April and June and then in Naples. Despite his pain he dealt with it with patience and his offering his pain to God.
The hospitalized Nunzio later met his paternal uncle – Francesco Sulprizio (a soldier) – who introduced him to a fellow soldier: Colonel Felice Wochinger. The two’s relationship soon grew until it became that of father and son. Gaetano Errico – future saint – promised him that he would admit him into his religious order when the time was right. On 20 June 1832 he entered the Hospital of the Incurables to seek further treatment with the colonel providing for all his needs during this time. He also prepared for his First Communion during this time and was enthusiastic about receiving it earlier despite the fact that rules dictated that he had to be fifteen. He also went to spa treatments on the island of Ischia and was able to abandon crutches in favor of a simple walking stick.
Nunzio realized the special nature of his suffering in relation to that redemptive suffering which Christ endured. One can only imagine how much the young saint endured as he sat in a hospital bed for months. But instead of turning inward to himself, he turned to Christ. He knew his own suffering would have a great effect on those around him.
In 1835 the doctors decided to amputate his leg as their sole option but his pain continued. His situation worsened in March 1836 and his suffering increased when his fever increased. He continued to place his trust in God and was well aware of the fact that the end was near. Two months later on the date of his death he asked for a crucifix to be brought to him before summoning his confessor and to receive the sacraments for the last time. He died in 1836 due to the disease he contracted. His remains are now located in the Church of San Domenico Soriano in Naples. Decades after his death Pope Leo XIII proposed Nunzio as a model for workers.