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Daughter of St. Gianna Molla comes to Duluth

It’s not every day you meet the daughter of a canonized saint. But 300 to 350 people were there to do so when Dr. Gianna Emanue- la Molla appeared at St. John the Evangelist Church in Duluth Oct. 30 to speak about her “saint Mom and holy Dad” and a project to preserve and restore the family home in Italy.

Dr. Molla is the daughter of Pietro and St. Gianna Beretta Molla. The saint, a physi- cian like her daughter, died in 1962 a week after giving birth to her namesake. During her pregnancy, St. Gianna was diagnosed with a tumor and given three possible courses of treatment. She chose the “riskiest solution” and insisted on putting her child’s life first, her daughter told the standing-room-only crowd at St. John’s.

Dr. Gianna Molla
Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of St. Gianna Molla, embraces a member of the faithful who greeted her after a presentation at St. John the Evangelist in Duluth Oct. 30. (Photo courtesy of Mary Rasch)

“And my Dad respected Mom’s decision,” she said. “My life was saved, and Mom went on living another seven months before the delivery.”

There was a week of “agony” after the deliv- ery as complications arose, and as it became clear God was calling her to Paradise, St. Gi- anna decided she did not want to die at the hospital and returned to the family home, where she died at age 39.

“I would not be here with you this evening if I had not been loved so much,” Dr. Molla said.

She began her presentation, which followed an evening Mass, by reading from some of the beautiful letters her parents had written to each other both during their marriage and during their courtship. She said she had also come to learn more about her mother when she spent seven years caring for her father from the time he became ill at age 90 until he died at nearly 98 years of age.

During that time, St. Gianna was canonized by Pope St. John Paul II, and Pietro was able to attend. Dr. Molla said she was happy to see a statue of St. John Paul II, the pope who both beatified and canonized her mother, in the church.

She noted that her mother has been called a “saint of everyday life.”

She said she feels “very moved and touched” to hear about graces received through her mother’s intercession, and that the most common of these is babies. She hears from married couples who cannot have children or have had many miscarriages. “They pray to Mom, and they have a child.”

“I’m happy to take into my arms these babies,” she said.

Dr. Molla said both of her parents came from deeply Christian parents and big families with great faith and great devotion to the Virgin Mary, and who loved and served their neighbors. Both of her parents prayed for holy spouses and wrote in their letters to each other of their shared faith.

Dr. Molla said that in one of her letters to Pietro, St. Gianna wrote, “I was always told that the secret of happiness is to live moment by moment, and to thank the Lord for all that he, in his goodness, sends to us day after day.”

She also wrote that she wanted God to make their family a “little Cenacle,” referring to the Upper Room where Jesus and his disciples had the Last Supper, where Jesus appeared to the disciples after his resurrection, where the early church met and prayed together, and where the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost.

“Mom and Dad truly lived the sacrament of marriage as a vocation and as a path towards holiness,” Dr. Molla said. “They always lived their life in the light of faith.”

She said she has learned several lessons from the holy lives of her parents. She said it’s important to “live a life of Christian witness.”

She also spoke of the Way of the Cross as being the right way to follow Jesus and also the way of joy. “Even walking along the Way of the Cross, we can live in joy,” she said.

Finally, she said that she has learned from her parents the sacredness of life — from the moment of conception, as her mother, a patron saint of the pro-life movement, teaches, to the moment of death, as her father’s long life teaches.

“I pray to the Lord and to the Virgin Mary to be as worthy as is possible for me of my ‘saint Mom’ and my ‘holy Dad,’” she said.

Dr. Molla also spoke of plans to restore the family home and nearby property, including a small church, as a holy site. Plans include a chapel with the Blessed Sacrament present, a place for a religious order, and the Saint Gianna Beretta Molla International Center, dedicated to life and family.

Father Richard Kunst, the pastor of St. John’s, who organized the visit and other appearances by Dr. Molla during a three-day stay in Duluth, urged donations. He said that the visit raised just over $56,000, most of it in a private dinner the night before her appearance in the parish.

After her talk, Dr. Molla greeted members of the faithful individually and posed for pictures, including one with several Giannas who were named for her “saint Mom.”

— By Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross