St Gianna Molla: Mother, Doctor, and Hero

(Credit: St. Gianna Center)

(Credit: St. Gianna Center)

Oftentimes when we think of saints we first think of men and women of great accomplishment, such as the brilliant St. Thomas Aquinus or the incredibly bold and brave St. Joan of Arc. Or we think of the saints that endured unimaginable hardships, such as St. Josephine Bakita and Saint Pope John Paul the Great. However, as I’m sure most of you know, the saints come from incredibly diverse backgrounds and many lived lives much more like yours or mine. Saint Gianna Molla perfectly exemplified the ordinary yet profoundly holy life that many of us strive to live. 

Gianna Beretta Molla was born in 1922 and lived in Magenta, Italy with her parents Alberto and Maria Beretta and her twelve siblings. She became a pediatrician, and in 1952 she opened her own practice in Mesero. In 1955 she married her husband Pietro Molla, and together they had four children named Maria, Gianna, Pierluigi, and Laura. Tragically, she also had two pregnancies which ended in miscarriage. Although Gianna’s family was not poor, they lived without many luxuries in order to give their children the best education they could. Nevertheless, Gianna never denied a patient service and gave every patient the care he or she needed whether they could pay or not. 

In 1962, Saint Gianna became pregnant with her sixth child, Gianna Emmanuela. Early on in her pregnancy doctors discovered a type of benign tumour called a fibroma. Doctors recommended that Gianna receive a hysterectomy, which would give her the largest chance at survival, but would kill her unborn baby. Gianna chose to have doctors only remove the tumor which posed the risk of infection, but was the only option that would save her baby. Throughout her labor, Gianna insisted that the doctors not hesitate to save the life of her child over herself. On April 28th, 1962, Gianna gave birth to a healthy baby girl and named her Gianna Emmanuela. She died one week later due to complications resulting from her damaged uterus and was canonized a saint by St. Pope John Paul II in 1994.

Saint Gianna’s life inspired Catholics all over the world to welcome new life into their homes. She is the patron saint of unborn babies, mothers, and women struggling to become pregnant. Many families pray to her to help their families, and fertility clinics have been founded in honor of her.

In these years after the passing of the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe vs. Wade, over 60 million lives have been lost to abortion. To help pregnant women choose life for their children, Catholics have established crisis pregnancy centers named after St. Gianna which provide resources for mothers and babies in need. St. Gianna’s legacy proves that ordinary people with ordinary struggles can completely change the world. Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us!

Alanna Hyatt ’22