10 April 2019
Lay Sainthood

Two Lay People Among the Eight Decrees for Sainthood

A child from Brazil and a woman from Italy are on their way to the altar for having dedicated their lives to Jesus despite of the challenges and sufferings that faced them

On April 6, 2019, the Holy Father approved the decrees of two laypersons, a child and a woman: Nelson Santanta from Brazil and Nuccia Tolomeo from Italy. Both gave a strong testimony of faith and closeness to Jesus in the face of incurable diseases and great suffering. As Pope Francis says in the Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et exultate, when the sick lives their difficulties with patience and supernaturality, they are often an obvious example of «holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them “the middle class of holiness” » (n.7).

Nelson “Nelsihno” Santana was born in Ibitinga, Brazil on 31 July 1955, and died on December 24, 1964. While he was hospitalized, Nelson gained the sympathy and love of the hospital staff and other children who were also hospitalized. He made his first communion in the hospital chapel, and at the age of nine he had a strong understanding of the meaning of Jesus' suffering. He was diagnosed with cancer in the arm, but never complained of pain, and instead supported the other patients. He told his mother that he had promised Jesus not to complain about suffering and pain. Every day he expressed his desire to confess and to participate in Eucharistic communion. Finally, the tumor became intrusive and Nelson died on Christmas Eve the same year he was admitted to the hospital. To this day there are many devotees who ask for graces and favors from little Nelsinho and pray on his tomb.

Gaetania “Nuccia” Tolomeo was born on April 10, 1936 in Catanzaro, Italy, with a deforming paralysis. Nuccia’s sickness progressed as the years went by, eventually passing away at age 60, on January 1, 1997. Throughout her life, Nuccia did not allow her sickness and imparity to stop her from living a holy Christian life – she prayed every day with the rosary permanently being attached to her hand. In Nuccia’s biography written by her cousin Ida Chiefari, it is said that although Nuccia was forced to stay on a bed or a chair for most of her life, the servant of God had understood that the Lord was using her as an instrument to win over so many brothers to Christ. In recent years Nuccia collaborated with a radio station, where she spread messages of spirituality and mysticism to the suffering in body and spirit, prostitutes, drug addicts and families in need.