St. Gianna Beretta Molla: Part One of the Summer Saints Series: Saints for the Working Catholic Mom

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us!

St. Gianna Beretta Molla, pray for us!

St. Gianna Beretta Molla is the perfect Saint to kick-start the summer saints series for working Catholic moms. First of all, St. Gianna was a devoted wife and mother to four children. Secondly, St. Gianna is a modern day Saint, living during a time we can all remember or refer to quickly in the history books. Thirdly, St. Gianna was a physician – making her a world-class Working Catholic Momma!

Date of Birth: October 4, 1922 in Milan
Date of Death: April 28, 1962
Beatified: April 24, 1994 by Blessed Pope John Paul II
Canonized: February 19, 2004 by Blessed Pope John Paul II
Career Path: Physician
Vocation: Wife/Mother

There is so much to know and learn about this woman, and so much to bring to her for intercession. The depth of knowledge available about St. Gianna is incredible because her husband documented her life, and was even present for her canonization, along with the daughter whom St. Gianna sacrificed her life to save in birth. This was the first time in history that a husband and daughter attended a canonization of a wife and mother. How very special for our Church, and what an incredible blessing for Pietro and Gianna Emmanuela.

St. Gianna was born to a large Italian family, who recognized the importance of faith and family. At a very early age, St. Gianna showed great talent, as she played the piano and painted. But her number one love was always Jesus. She was a daily communicant, taught to be so by her own mother. Her sister, Sister Virginia said of Gianna that she was always doing God’s will. Virginia said, “Holiness, after all, consists in carrying out one’s responsibilities well.” It was Virginia who perhaps influenced Gianna the most after her parents died. This influence would be seen in everything Gianna did, including graduating from medical school.

At a young age, St. Gianna joined the young girls of the Catholic Action organization, which taught the deepness of the faith, including daily Eucharist, Devotion to the Blessed Mother, and a life in Jesus. Gianna would continue her participation in this organization, mentoring new members and young girls each year.

In 1942, Gianna enrolled in medical school. At first, she wanted to focus on OB/GYN, but later made the decision to specialize in pediatrics. But first, Gianna wanted to be a missionary in Brazil with her brother, Father Alberto. Alberto asked her to discern deeply on this. Gianna saw her work as her mission and special vocation. She loved working with the poor, elderly, and mother and children together. She never turned anyone away, even if she disagreed with them. This is what attracted Pietro to her. For years, St. Gianna operated a successful practice, which included serving those young patients from poor families.

Perhaps it was divine providence that kept St. Gianna in Italy, as she met her future husband, Pietro Molla (10 years older than her) when she was 32. These two beautiful people of God shared an amazing love story, built through their faith and love of Jesus. Pietro also saw his career as an engineer as a mission and faith-filled venture. This was perfect for St. Gianna, as she saw her career as a physician as part of her vocation and call to serve God.
Gianna and Pietro shared many love letters throughout the years of their engagement and marriage. In one of the letters from Gianna to Pietro, she writes,

“I often mediate on the text associated with Saint Anne: “A strong woman, who will find her? The heart of her husband can trust in her. She will do only good things for him and never bring evil upon him throughout all of his life.”
Pietro, I want to be that strong woman for you! Instead, I feel weak. This means that I must lean on your strong arm. I feel so safe, so close to you! I ask you a favor: from now on, Pietro, if you see me doing something wrong…tell me, okay?” (p. 68: Saint Gianna Beretta Molla: A Woman’s Life)

Once married, they began having children. Her third pregnancy was filled with difficulty, including toxemia. Pietro was traveling quite a bit then, but she never complained to him. Not only was she a mother, and pregnant, but she continued her practice, saying the women and children needed her. She also kept up a bit of travel, for both professional development and pleasure, which Pietro encouraged.

Although her third pregnancy was incredibly difficult, she welcomed with joy her fourth pregnancy, which would be a calling to live a full Catholic faith, especially toward the end of the pregnancy.

Described by her husband Pietro:

“Gianna was a splendid but ordinary woman. She was stylish and elegant, a beautiful and intelligent woman who loved to smile. Gianna was a competent physician and she knew that she would not survive the birth of the baby she was expecting.”

In the 8th week of her fourth pregnancy, physicians found a tumor on her uterus. Doctors gave her 3 options: abortion, hysterectomy, surgery. She chose surgery. At every turn, she made sure her doctor understood if there was a choice in the birth of the child to save either her or the baby, the baby must be saved.

When she had the baby, Gianna Emanuela, St. Gianna became very sick – septic. She lasted approximately 1 week, with her sister Virginia and Pietro at her side every moment. On the last night of her illness, Pietro transported her back to their home to die peacefully among her 3 babies!

She is quoted as saying things like,

“Work can be prayer…if we offer to the Lord all that we perform so that they might serve His Glory. Whatever we say or do should be done in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

She is also quoted saying,

“Everyone works in service of man. We doctors work directly on man himself…The great mystery of man is Jesus: ‘He who visits a sick person, helps me,’ Jesus said. Just as the priest can touch Jesus, so do we touch Jesus in the bodies of our patients…We have opportunities to do good that the priest doesn’t have. Our mission is not finished when the medicines are no longer of use. We must bring the soul to God; our word has some authority. Catholic doctors are so necessary!”

Besides my immense respect and awe of Gianna and Pietro’s marriage, I am drawn to the career side of Gianna as well. During her education, her professional travels, her physician’s practice, and her devotion to her call as a professional woman, Gianna was always able to give thanks to God, use her talents and skills He gave her in her career, and always prioritize faith, family and career. What an incredible Working Catholic Mom!

From St. Gianna Beretta Molla: A Modern Day Hero of Divine Love, by Thomas J. McKenna, please join me in prayer during the next week:

God our Father, we praise Thee and we bless Thee because in St. Gianna Beretta Molla Thou hast given us one who witnessed to the Gospel as a young woman, as wife, as a mother, and as a doctor. We thank Thee because through the gift of her life, we can learn to welcome and honor every human person.

Thou, Lord Jesus, were for Gianna a splendid example. She learned to recognize Thee in the beauty of nature. As she was questioning her choice of vocation, she went in search of Thee and the best way to serve Thee. Through her married love, she became a sign of Thy love for the Church and for humanity. Like Thee, the Good Samaritan, she cared for everyone who was sick, small or weak. Following Thy example, out of love she gave herself entirely, generating new life.

Holy spirit, Source of every perfection, give us wisdom, intelligence, and courage so that, following the example of St. Gianna and through her intercession, we may know how to place ourselves at the service of each person we meet in our personal, family, and professional lives, and thus grow in love and holiness. Amen
(With ecclesiastical approval: Angelo Mascheroni, Auxiliary Bishop of Milan)

Join me again on Thursday to hear more about how to prioritize family when you are traveling for work. Just like St. Gianna Molla, we can lead holy lives through our professional work, which is dedicated back to Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Other Sources of Information on St. Gianna:

Gianna: The Love Letters of a Saint by Paolo Iafolla
Saint Gianna Molla: Wife, Mother, Doctor by Pietro Molla and Elio Guerriero

Peace of Christ to you and yours!

Up Next: Blessed Mother Teresa
On Deck: Blessed Zelie Martin
In the Hole: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton    Send article as PDF   


  1. I think St. Gianna Beretta Molla is the inspiration of many moms out there. Because she is really a kind and devoted mom, that is why no one can not make her inspired. And the most important, you have so many lesson that you will learn from her as a mother.

    • Sean…Totally agreed! The more I read, the more I want to read! I love her so much. My oldest daughter has a special devotion to her because of pro-life. It is awesome to watch her grow in love with the saints, too!

      God bless!


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