Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla began her first visit to the United States with a visit to the New York headquarters of Priests for Life on Monday to enshrine a photo and relic of her mother, St. Gianna Molla, a patron saint of the pro-life movement.
“God loved my mother very much,” Dr. Molla said while addressing the staff of the Catholic, pro-life ministry. But she added that “God chose her among many saint mothers. There must be many saint mothers in paradise.”
St. Gianna Beretta Molla was a physician who grew up near Milan. When she and her husband, Pietro, were expecting their fourth child, St. Gianna learned she had a tumor in her uterus. She decided against a hysterectomy that would have saved her life but kill her unborn child. Gianna Emanuela was born April 21, 1962. Her mother died on April 28.
“I would not be here with you if I had not been loved so much,” said Dr. Molla, who lives near Milan.
Dr. Molla spoke of her mother’s upbringing in a very religious family. St. Gianna was the 10th of 13 children, five of whom died in childhood. Her younger sister became a nun and two brothers became priests. One of them, Father Alberto Maria Beretta, has been declared a “Servant of God” in the cause for canonization.
St. Gianna, born in 1922, was a deeply religious young woman who chose to become a physician because she saw it “as the most effective means of apostolate,” according to her daughter.
“All my mom’s life has been a hymn to life,” Dr. Molla said. “She died in the same exemplary way she lived. Her holiness represents something extraordinary … a holiness in which everyone can feel at home.”
Accompanied by Thomas McKenna, founder of the St. Gianna Physicians Guild, and Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, Dr. Molla hung a photo of her mother holding her sister, Mariolina, in the lobby of Priests for Life headquarters. Below the photo is a relic of St. Gianna – a piece of cloth from a garment worn by the saint.
The St. Gianna Physicians Guild encourages doctors to become pro-life advocates. McKenna said the guild enshrines photos and relics of St. Gianna in medical offices, and encourages doctors to become members. A lapel pin from the guild is often a conversation starter for a doctor and his or her colleagues. If someone asks about the pin “all you do is tell the story” of St. Gianna’s life and sacrificial death, he said. Father Pavone and Janet Morana, executive director of Priests for Life, were made honorary members of the guild.
“We need to show that faith and morality go together,” for doctors, McKenna said.
Speaking of St. Gianna during Mass in the Priests for Life chapel, Father Pavone said “the act of sacrifice she made at the end of her life was not an isolated act,” but the culmination of a life of piety.
In a homily focused on Jesus’ words, “This is My body,” Father Pavone said that many mothers today say, “This is my body, I can do what I want, even if it means killing the baby. … St. Gianna said, ‘this is my body, given to you.’ “
Dr. Molla said she came to know her mother through the memories of her father, who died last year at the age of 98. She was taught not to feel guilt over her mother’s death, and her siblings were reassured that the mother who was taken from them would have died for them as well.
“My mother chose to risk her life for me, but she always hoped God would save her life, too,” Dr. Molla said. “God prepared for my mother a bigger design. I am happy to share my mother with all those persons who are in difficulty.”
Dr. Molla will speak at events in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, California and Nebraska. On July 23, she will participate in a conference in Kansas City, Mo., organized by the St. Gianna Physicians Guild to address end-of-life issues.
For more information on her visit, please visit www.stgiannaphysicians.org.