“I like the idea of having a child of a canonized saint here, and having people have as close as they can to a tangible experience of a saint,” said Father Richard Kunst.
His parish, St. John in Duluth, will be offering just that Oct. 30, when it hosts Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of St. Gianna Molla, a patron saint of the pro-life movement.
The saint, canonized on May 16, 2004, by Pope St. John Paul II, was herself a pediatrician. While she was pregnant with her fourth child in 1961 — the young Gianna — she discovered she had a life-threatening tumor.
Among the options her doctors gave her were abortion, which would not have been morally licit, and hysterectomy, which would have been licit but would also have led to the death of the child. Instead, she insisted on a course of care that would put saving the life of her child as the priority.
Despite efforts to save both mother and child, the saint died a week after her daughter was born. She was 39 years old.
“She’s the patron saint of unborn children and the pro-life movement,” Father Kunst said, as well as the inspiration for parents who have given the name to their own children.
Father Kunst said the daughter the saint died saving, herself a physician as well, has become a spokesperson for her mother’s mission. For instance, she was present at the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in 2015, with Pope Francis in attendance.
She will also be appearing in the Twin Cities in October, which the Catholic Church in the United States observes as Respect Life Month.
Yet Father Kunst said getting Dr. Molla lined up to come to Duluth was difficult despite the fact that she is coming to Minnesota already.
In fact, at one point, she told Father Kunst it would be “absolutely impossible.” But the next day she wrote again to say she could come for a talk in the parish.
“I’m very excited about it, obviously,” he said.
There is a private fundraising dinner the day before, but the main public event is Oct. 30, with Mass at 6:30 p.m. followed by Dr. Molla’s talk.
This, too, will have a fundraising component. Dr. Molla is raising funds to restore the family home and “make it into a shrine,” Father Kunst said.
“She travels all over the place to share her mom’s story and the vision of what she would like to do in regard to her mother’s ministry in the pro-life movement,” he said.
So he will be asking for a generous freewill donation. But the event is free and is a unique opportunity to meet one of the few people in the world who is a living child of a canonized saint.
“St. Gianna Molla died to save this woman’s life,” he added. “… She’s an integral part of the whole story of St. Gianna Molla.”
He said there are no tickets, it’s just first-come, first-served. There will be closed-circuit TV in the parish’s basement in case there is overflow from the church, which itself can seat quite a few people.
“All they have to do is bring their willingness to support the mission of St. Gianna Molla and the pro-life movement,” he said.
— Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross