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Gianna Beretta Molla

St. Gianna Beretta Molla

Born: October 4, 1922

Died: April 28, 1962

Canonized: May 16, 2004, by Pope John Paul II

Feast Day: April 28

Patron Saint of: mothers, physicians

Patron of "Mothers of the Family."

Born in Magenta (near Milan), Italy, on October 4, 1922; died April 28, 1962. Gianna Beretta, the 10th of 13 children, was raised and educated by pious parents, who taught her the life is a great gift from God to be embraced with gratitude. Consequently, she had a strong hope in God's providence and was convinced of the effectiveness of prayer.

As a teenager and young adult, she was a member of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society and volunteered her time to work among the elderly and poor. At the same time she diligently applied herself to her studies, earning degrees in medicine and surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949. The following year, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero near her hometown. She specialized in pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and thereafter gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly, and the poor.

Gianna saw medicine as her means of serving the Creator; thus, she increased her generous service to Catholic Action. Yet, unlike many of the earlier saints, Gianna exhibited a real joy for living. She loved skiing and trekking through the mountains. Some thought that such a good Christian woman should enter the convent; but after prayerful reflection, she knew that her vocation was marriage and cooperation with God "to forming a truly Christian family."

On September 24, 1955, she married Pietro Molla in Saint Martin's Basilica in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. Gianna was no cardboard saint. She knew and joyfully embraced the demands of balancing her obligations as a career woman, wife, and mother. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi; in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura.

In September 1961, towards the end of the second month of pregnancy, she discovered that she had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before the required surgical operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to God's care. The life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the next seven months joyfully dedicating herself to her tasks as mother and doctor; however, she was worried that the baby in her womb might be born in pain, and she asked God to prevent that.

A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: "If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child--I insist on it. Save the baby." Thus, Gianna Emanuela was born on the morning of April 21, 1962. Despite all efforts to save both mother and child, today's saint died less than a week later in horrible pain. After repeatedly exclaiming, "Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you," the mother died. She was 39 years old. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer. The body of the new blessed lies in the cemetery of Mesero near Magenta (L'Osservatore Romano, 4/27/94).

On July 6, 1991, His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, issued the Decree of Heroicity of Virtue of the Servant of God. On December 21, 1992 the Decree of the Miracle was proclaimed. On April 24, 1994, Pope John Paul II beatified Gianna Beretta Molla at St. Peter's Square in Rome. Finally, on May 16, 2004, Gianna Beretta Molla was canonized.

Gianna Beretta Molla