A MOTHER WHO CHOSE LIFE FOR HER UNBORN CHILD
Feast Day: April 28
Gianna Beretta Molla, born in 1922 in Magenta, Italy, was a steadfast woman, both in her beliefs and in her career.
At the age of 20, just after she graduated high school, she began studying medicine in Milan. She instantly fell in love with the medical field and considered being a doctor a sort of “priestly mission”—not work. “Just as the priests can touch Jesus,” Gianna once wrote on a prescription pad, “so we doctors touch Jesus in the bodies of our patients: in the poor, the young, the old and children.”
By the time Gianna met her husband, Pietro, in 1954, she was a pediatric specialist, she had obtained degrees in medicine and surgery, and she had opened a medical clinic in Mesero. But that didn’t stop her from becoming a wife and mother. She had three children with Pietro (Pierluigi, Maria Zita and Laura) while continuing her work as a doctor.
Gianna had a demanding professional and personal life that was exacerbated when she became pregnant with her fourth child in 1961. In her second month of pregnancy, Gianna developed a fibroma in her uterus—a tumor. Doctors gave her a few options, but she went with the riskiest one: the one that would prioritize the baby’s life over her own. She unequivocally advocated for the survival of her baby, saying, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child.” Though Gianna survived the surgery that removed the fibroma, she experienced complications throughout her pregnancy and died from septic peritonitis a week after her child, Gianna Emanuela Molla, was born.
Gianna was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and was canonized on May 16, 2004. Her husband and four children were present at these ceremonies, making it the first time a husband had witnessed his wife’s canonization.
St. Gianna Molla is remembered in a special way at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. A side altar is dedicated to her honor and houses her first class relic. Public veneration of her relic is available on April 28 and takes place by the way of a general blessing at the conclusion of Holy Mass.
Published in the Jan./Feb. 2023 issue of Catholic Life Magazine