THE WAY OF JOY: Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla spreads a joy-filled message from her saint-mother’s life

The drone of children babbling and crying during Father Timothy Elliott's homily did not phase him one bit.

He knew their presence was a precious gift, all because of a special saint.

Families came to St. Gianna Church for Mass April 30 to meet Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla on her historic first visit to the Wentzville parish, founded 10 years ago and named after her mother. St. Gianna was an Italian wife, mother and doctor who ultimately sacrificed her life so her daughter might live. Canonized in 2004, she has become a patron for couples experiencing infertility and for mothers in high-risk pregnancies.

"It moves me to see this church," said Gianna Emanuela, who received regular updates from the parish as it was being built. "I am very happy to finally be here. I have seen, step by step, as you were building the church. Even though I was in Italy, I was close to you."

St. Gianna Beretta Molla timeline

St. GiannaOct. 4, 1922: Born to Alberto and Marie Beretta in Magenta, Italy

Nov. 1942: Begins her studies in medicine

Sept. 1949: Pietro meets Gianna at her brother's medical office

Nov. 30, 1949: Earns a degree in medicine and surgery.

July 1, 1950: Gianna opens a medical clinic in Mesero

July 7, 1952: Gianna obtains her degree as a pediatric specialist.

December 8, 1954: Gianna and Pietro began their friendship after meeting at a friend's first Mass

April 11, 1955: Gianna and Pietro are engaged

Sept. 24,1955: Gianna and Pietro are married

Nov. 19, 1956: Their first son Pierluigi is born

Dec. 11, 1957: Daughter Maria Zita is born

July 15, 1959: Daughter Laura is born

1961: Became pregnant with Gianna Emanuela. In her second month of pregnancy, she is diagnosed with fibroid tumor on her uterus. The doctors give her three choices: a hysterectomy, removal of the fibroid or an abortion.

Sept. 6, 1961: Gianna undergoes surgery to remove the tumor, in an effort to preserve her child's life.

April 21, 1962: Gianna Emanuela is born

April 28, 1962: Gianna Beretta Molla dies at the age of 39 of septic peritonitis

April 11, 1978: Cardinal Giovanni Colombo and the 16 members of the Bishops Conference of Lombardy petition Pope John Paul II for the introduction of the cause for the beautification of Gianna Beretta Molla

1977: First miracle occurred in Brazil

April 24, 1994: Gianna Beretta Molla was beatified during the year of the family

2002-2003: The second miracle is examined and declared valid

Feb. 19, 2004: The process of canonization concludes

May 16, 2004: Canonization in St Peter's Square, Rome

Source: The Society of St. Gianna Beretta Molla    

Gianna Emanuela made a six-day visit to St. Louis, participating in events celebrating the parish's 10th anniversary. She toured a Thrive mobile ultrasound van, MyLife Medical Center in House Springs, and Our Lady's Inn maternity shelter. The visit culminated with an evening Mass May 3 at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis and a presentation.

Before her arrival, the St. Gianna Pro-Life Ministry asked families with "Gianna babies" to submit stories of their babies who were born after praying for St. Gianna's intercession. Some have experienced infertility; others, high-risk pregnancies. Their stories were included in a scrapbook presented to Gianna Emanuela after the April 30 Mass. Families were invited to meet with her afterward.

Their presence was proof of the good that her mother continues to do, she told them. It took her many years to understand God's will for her mother. But now she recognizes that the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, "thought Mama could do a lot of good, not only for the family, but all around the world. I am a direct testimony of all the good that mom is doing in different parts of the world."

"I know a little, in an indirect way, the heartbreak of infertility," she said. "Many people from different parts of the world ask for me to pray, to receive their so eagerly awaited gift of a child. I tell them, if your desire is in accord with God's will, surely my Mom will listen to your prayers. What a great joy for me, when (I see) these families for whom I have prayed, when they tell me through your Mom's intercession we have received this so eagerly awaited gift of a child. Nothing is impossible with God."

And what about when God's desire is different than that of a couple who has yet to have a child? "I pray for them, because it's not so simple for them to accept it," she said. "I pray so that their hearts can be always open to God's will. And that they could be open to another way to be parents."

Gianna Emanuela spoke of the positive example of her parents' marriage. When her mother realized she was called to a married vocation, she prayed to the Blessed Mother for a spouse. Her father, Pietro, likewise prayed to Our Lady of Good Counsel for a "good mom" for his future children.

A geriatrics doctor, she cared for her father into his old age. He died on Holy Saturday in 2010 at the age of 97 — "with his mind very clear," she said.

"Mom and Dad were spiritually united," she said. "They lived the sacrament of marriage as a true vocation. I thank God and the Virgin Mary, who were in my parents' hearts. And my saint Mom and beloved Dad for the gift of life. The gift of life is the most sacred gift we have always to honor and respect."

Her parents taught her that the Way of the Cross the right way to follow, even with its sufferings. "The Way of the Cross is the Way of Joy," she said. "Both of them suffered a lot in their life, but they had a great joy. It is the most profound joy that is a prelude of a bigger joy — to be able to reach paradise one day and forever."

Angela and John Berry made a nine-hour drive from Oklahoma City to meet Gianna Emanuela at the cathedral basilica. The Berrys named their first child Gianna Maria, who turned 2 in February. The couple has experienced several miscarriages and hope to have another child.

"She's a very special saint in our family," said Angela Berry. "The Lord called me to nursing — I'm a registered nurse — so she's become a patron for me in several ways."

Sister John Mary Rainey learned about Gianna Emanuela's visit to the cathedral basilica that morning. Her novice director surprised her with the information, and a group of Sisters of St. Francis of the Martyr St. George came together. It had a significant meaning for Sister John Mary.

"I came back to the Church through the pro-life movement in 2004 when St. Gianna was canonized," she said. "I wasn't on fire for my faith, but through Pope John Paul II and St. Gianna, I found the Lord ... and after that I was just on fire." 

Restoration project in Ponte Nuovo of Magenta

An effort is underway to restore sites in Ponte Nuovo, a small suburban village near Magenta, Italy, where St. Gianna Beretta Molla lived and worked.

The project will include the creation of the St. Gianna Beretta Molla International Center, which will serve as a place of prayer, study and spirituality for pilgrims from all over the world.

St. Gianna and her husband, Pietro and their children, lived in Ponte Nuovo for six-and-a-half years. She worked there as a pediatrician and served as director of the Advisory Center for mothers, and for the nursery linked to the Opera Nazionale Maternità e Infanzia, a national organization for motherhood and childhood. Pietro worked for the SAFFA (Società per Azioni Fabbriche Fiammiferi ed Affini) Company, which owned the Mollas' home.

In their Ponte Nuovo home, St. Gianna gave birth to three of their children — Pierluigi, Maria Zita and Laura. On April 28, 1962, she died at home of septic peritonitis after giving birth to daughter Gianna Emanuela at San Gerardo Hospital a week before. Pietro and his children continued to live in the family home for another 17 years.

The family moved to Milan in 1981, but Gianna Emanuela continues to care for the original furniture that was in the home during the years St. Gianna and Pietro lived there. The home was later abandoned and has experienced heavy deterioration. It is among the sites that will be restored under the project.

The project also will include restoration of the Church of Our Lady of Good Counsel (also owned by the SAFFA Company), where the family worshipped and St. Gianna's funeral was celebrated. The SAFFA Company General Management Building, located between the Molla home and the church, will be restored and used as the visitors' center.

The St. Gianna Restoration Fund has been set up with the National Catholic Community Foundation, a United States-based community foundation. Contributions are tax-deductible. Visit to make a donation. Gift designation should be made to St. Gianna Restoration Fund. For more information on the project can be found at the website of St. Gianna Parish in Wentzville:

St. Gianna churches

St. Gianna Parish in Wentzville, founded in 2006, was the first parish in the United States to be named after the patronage of St. Gianna.

Other U.S. churches named after St. Gianna include:

• St. Gianna Oratory in Tucson, Ariz., administered by the Institute of Christ the King, Sovereign Priest

• St. Gianna Church in Northfield, N.J.

• The Shrine of St. Gianna Beretta Molla at Nativity of Our Lord Church in Warminster, Penn.

• The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wis. has a side-aisle shrine featuring a large painting of St. Gianna. In January, the shrine established the St. Gianna Guild, for mothers and those who wish to be mothers. Members are enrolled in the guild and receive the benefit of being remembered at Mass every second Monday of the month at the shrine for one year. Visit for more information.

Blessing for families

St. Gianna Parish offers a monthly blessing with a first-class relic of St. Gianna for couples expecting a baby or hoping to conceive and mothers with high-risk pregnancies.

Father Timothy Elliott offers the blessing on the first Saturday of the month, after 8 a.m. Mass at the parish, 450 E. Highway N in Wentzville.

The parish has a shrine to St. Gianna, with her first-class relic (strands of her hair) on display. The parish also has a second-class relic, part of St. Gianna's First Communion dress. The parish is building a display for a set of gloves that belonged to the saint.

The parish will host a trivia night Sept. 24 to benefit the Knights of Columbus' Meet Life campaign. To reserve a table, call Mary at (636) 272-5000 or

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