Happy Feast of St. Gianna Beretta Molla!
Here are some excerpts of her biography from the website of St. Gianna Parish in Wentzville, Missouri.
Gianna Beretta was born in Magenta (Milan) October 4, 1922. Already as a youth she willingly accepted the gift of faith and the clearly Christian education that she received from her excellent parents. As a result, she experienced life as a marvelous gift from God, had a strong faith in Providence and was convinced of the necessity and effectiveness of prayer.
She diligently dedicated herself to studies during the years of her secondary and university education, while, at the same time, applying her faith through generous apostolic service among the youth of Catholic Action and charitable work among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. After earning degrees in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in Pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and there after gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and poor.
While working in the field of medicine-which she considered a “mission” and practiced as such-she increased her generous service to Catholic Action, especially among the “very young” and, at the same time, expressed her joie de vivre and love of creation through skiing and mountaineering. Through her prayers and those of others, she reflected upon her vocation, which she also considered a gift from God. Having chosen the vocation of marriage, she embraced it with complete enthusiasm and wholly dedicated herself “to forming a truly Christian family”.
She became engaged to Pietro Molla and was radiant with joy and happiness during the time of their engagement, for which she thanked and praised the Lord. They were married on September 24, 1955, in the Basilica of St. Martin in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi, in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.
Gianna wanted to have a big family. She and Peter had a son, Pierluigi, then two daughters, Mariolina and Laura, followed by two miscarriages. In the summer of 1961 Gianna became pregnant with another child.
Within two months, however, the young mother developed a large, painful uterine tumor that threatened her life and that of her developing baby. The surgeon suggested that she have an abortion or a hysterectomy—the latter, of course, would also have killed the child—in order to save her own life. Gianna opted instead for a riskier surgery that would simply remove the tumor to protect the baby while leaving her own life at risk.
The operation was successful in preserving the life of the child. But as the months of her pregnancy continued, Gianna had a premonition of what was to come. She was ready to sacrifice her life so that her child could live.
A few days before the baby was due, she told her husband: “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: Choose the child; I insist on it. Save the baby!”
On Holy Saturday, 1962, after a Caesarian section, Gianna gave birth to a healthy baby girl weighing nearly 10 pounds. The child was named Gianna as well. (Today, “little” Gianna is also a medical doctor, a gerontologist.)
That same day, the mother’s condition began to deteriorate. She was dying of septic peritonitis, an infection of the lining of the abdomen—a result of her choice to preserve the life of her child. Gianna died a week later on April 28, 1962 (now her feast day).