Naples, Italy was home to Gennaro Sarnelli, who was born September 12, 1702. He was a brilliant man. Versed in liturature, theology, the humanities and law, he earned a doctorate in civil law at the age of 20.
He is believed to have met Saint Alphonsus Liguori at the Hospital for Incurables in Naples where they both served as volunteers - ministering in a fashion that brought comfort and consolation to many on their deathbed through prayer, presence, encouragement and simple service.
Feeling the call to priestly ministry, he began his prepartation for ordination as a diocesan seminarian. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 8, 1732, and was soon attracted by Saint Alphonsus to his newly formed congregation. The two had great admiration for each other, as they both possessed a tremendous zeal for spreading the gospel, particularly amoung persons who were poor and abandoned.
Sarnelli had particular devotion to helping people who were marginalized. He was noted for his attention to persons who were poor, sick, imprisoned, elderly and iving with incurable disease. He walked in the midst of the poorest of the poor, amoung whom numbered many women who were caught in the cycle of prostitution. He ministered tirelessly on their behalf -often finding ways to help them leave Naples so as to begin life anew in a better environment.
He was a man of deep and profound prayer who never wavered from his commitment in that regard, having particular devotion to meditation, imitation of Jesus Christ, devotion to the Eucharist and to the Mother of God.
His life on earth came to an end on June 30, 1744 when he was only 42 years of age. Beatified by Pope John Paul II on May 12, 1996, the life of Blessed Sarnelli stands as a testimony to the gospel and to the mission of Jesus as embodied by the vision and charism of Saint Alphonsus.