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St. Gianna Beretta Molla: A Modern Mother's Heroism

Apr 28, 2017 By Gretchen Filz

April 28 is the feast day of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian medical doctor who lived a life of heroic virtue. She is a saint for our modern times with much to teach us through her life witness as a faithful Catholic, successful working woman, devoted wife, and loving mother of four.



Gianna was born in Italy in 1922. She was raised in a large and strong Catholic family; both of her parents were Third Order Franciscans. Daily Mass and a daily rosary were part of her family tradition, and of the 13 children born to her parents there were two priests, a nun, and a saint (Gianna).

Gianna was an adventurous woman who loved skiing and mountaineering. She studied medicine in college while also serving others through Catholic Action and the St. Vincent de Paul Society.  She earned degrees in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949.  After opening her own medical clinic she gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly, and the poor, inspiring her to specialize in Pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla: A Modern Mother's Heroism

"God's Providence is in all things, it's always present."

~St. Gianna Molla


Gianna was also committed to prayer and contemplation to discover God's will for her life. According to one account,

“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 married in 1955 and welcomed four children into the world.

St. Gianna Beretta Molla: A Modern Mother's Heroism

When she was pregnant with her fourth child, a painful fibroma developed in her uterus.  Her doctors gave her three options for treatment: an abortion, which would save her life and preserve the possibility of future pregnancies, but would directly terminate the life of her unborn child---a mortal sin; a hysterectomy, which would also save her life yet indirectly terminate the life of her unborn child, a procedure which would have been morally permissible without sin; or a risky surgery to remove the fibroma and continue with the pregnancy to save the child's life, which would put her own life in danger.


Gianna made a heroic choice; she chose the surgery to remove the fibroma, the option with the best chance to save the life of her unborn child--even though it was the option that put her own life the most at risk.

After the surgery, complications persisted through the rest of her pregnancy.  Because of this, Gianna knew that she would have a risky delivery. She remarked,

"This time it will be a difficult delivery, and they may have to save one or the other---I want them to save my baby."

St. Gianna Beretta Molla: A Modern Mother's Heroism

On the morning of April 21, 1962, which was Good Friday that year, her daughter Gianna Emanuela (named for her mother) was born after a hard labor and delivery via C-section. She made it clear to her doctors,

“If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it.  Save her.”

Seven days later St. Gianna died, after much painful suffering, on April 28, 1962. She was 39 years old. Among her last words were, “Jesus, I love you.”


Gianna Beretta Molla was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on April 24, 1994, during the international Year of the Family. She was canonized on May 16, 2004. She is the patron saint of physicians, pregnant mothers, unborn children, and against abortion.

“St. Gianna died as a result of sacrificing her life so that her unborn child in the womb could have the maximum chance at life. Divine Providence accepted her sacrifice and suffering and she was rewarded with Eternal Salvation. Thus it is very beautiful that her heroic virtue was acknowledged and confirmed by the Universal Church through two intercessory miracles involving two mothers and an innocent baby in the womb.”  - St. Gianna Physician's Guild

For more on this great saint for our times, read The Miracles Approved for the Canonization of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla. Her husband,  Mr. Pietro Molla, died in 2010 on Holy Saturday surrounded by his children. Read the account of his death, A Holy Couple Reunited in Heaven, from a priest who was close to the family.

"One cannot love without suffering or suffer without loving."

- St. Gianna Molla

The beautiful and heroic prayer of St. Gianna Molla 


Jesus, I promise You to submit myself to all that You permit to befall me, make me only know Your will.  My most sweet Jesus, infinitely merciful God, most tender Father of souls, and in a particular way of the most weak, most miserable, most infirm which You carry with special tenderness between Your divine arms, I come to You to ask You, through the love and merits of Your Sacred Heart, the grace to comprehend and to do always Your holy will, the grace to confide in You, the grace to rest securely through time and eternity in Your loving divine arms. Amen.

St. Gianna Molla, pray for us!

The Heroic Life of St. Gianna Molla, medical doctor, committed Catholic, wife, and mother of four.

This article has been updated and was originally published in April 2013. © The Catholic Company. All rights reserved.


bruno says
Oct 7 2018 10:51PM
Thank you , my LORD for answering our prayers . Brett Kavanaugh has been confirmed to the Supreme Court. We must still pray to destroy all the evil, that wants to destroy us. GOD Bless America..
bruno says
Sep 17 2018 9:09PM
Let us all pray for judge Brett Kavanaugh... He is the only man that could derail, " ROE VS. WADE." He must be appointed to the Supreme Court... If he is elected, there will be many less abortions in america... God bless america.....
bruno says
Sep 2 2018 11:52PM
I hope that " Roe vs. Wade" can finally be abolished.
Bruno Lanteri says
Aug 20 2018 11:58PM
Pray for fight against abortion. Love you Jesus..
Mariel Kottoor says
May 7 2018 10:29AM
Thank you for an amazing story! Helped me write my Confirmation paper.
Mariel Kottoor says
May 6 2018 8:10PM
Great Story! Thank you! You really helped me write my Confirmation Saint Bio!
Elizabeth Wambui says
Jan 24 2018 7:25AM
Saint Gianna's story is so moving, can I change my confirmation name to Gianna so that she can become my prayer partner I want to be like her by all means.

Thanks a lot for the story
catherine says
Oct 17 2017 3:02AM
wooow i gave birth to a baby girl and named her gianna and im proud as we comemorate her feast we also celebrate my girls birthday

St.Gianna pray for us
Her life is a great example to all, especially to those who believe in abortion under any circumstances. It is also great to see a married person being canonized because it rarely occurs.
Sharon Bass says
Apr 29 2017 1:44PM
This is the first I heard of her!!!! I just completed Walking 4 Life- a Pro -Life event sponsored by Care Net Peninsula. I was only able to walk for 1 hour. i am so glad to know of her!!!! It is my team's first walk through care Net. It was extremely humid and I only walked

for 1 hour but my heart was with everyone. So many youth there and mothers who obviously said "yes" to accepting a Gifted child

some with obvious disabilities. I fund raised as well as walked. My Goal was for$175.00 I surpassed early this morning when I woke up!!! So many caring people in my life.

Peace and Blessings to all Mothers!!!

This story is so moving. I had never heard of St. Gianna.
Rudina says
Mar 12 2017 7:41PM
I never heard about St. Gianna , I love this story , brought me to tears as a mother of two and a very strong catholic women.
Audrey Andrieski says
Apr 28 2016 9:53PM
Are her children still here?
Hi Audrey, yes, her children are still alive.
Marilyn says
Apr 28 2016 3:40PM
I knew of her, purchased prayer cards and have been sending them in birthday cards to promote devotion to her.
Anne Cubley says
Apr 28 2016 2:44PM
Moving story. Brought tears to me. I need more saints who were "real people". She was married, educated, had babies (yes she even had intercourse). I sometimes think the saints I have read about in the past were all chaste.

Thank you
Evelyn Sullivan says
Apr 28 2015 7:58PM
This was a great saint to learn about. Thank you for sharing her life history.
Maria Hernandez says
Apr 28 2014 1:55PM
She is one of my favorite saints of all times. My youngest baby's name is Gianna. My wedding anniversary is April 24th (her beatification date), my birthday is May 16th (her canonization date), my third child was baptized on October 4th (St Gianna's birthday), I am a pro-life working mother of 4 just like her. I LOVE ST GIANNA!!!
Cecille says
May 4 2013 11:33AM
This is the first time I've heard of St. Gianna. Her story made me cry. I am a mother of two boys and was blessed to have two relatively uncomplicated pregnancies and births. We had a miscarriage after our first child was born. We lost the baby after about two weeks into the pregnancy. It was such a devastating loss and to this day, we mourn the loss of our unborn child, because of the pain of not having known him/her. Healing was only possible as we focused on the thought that our baby is with the One who can love him/her more than we ever can. I will always be opposed to abortion and as a mother, I completely understand St. Gianna's decision to save her baby's life at the cost of even her life. Every mother (or father) should have that commitment and dedication to their children. As a nurse and a mother, I feel that I can really relate to this modern day saint. Thanks for posting her story.
Anne says
Apr 29 2013 8:42AM
We need more wonderful stories such as this! God Bless her always for making the right decision. It showed the ultimate love of a mother. The way it was meant to be.
emmanuel musonda says
Apr 29 2013 4:52AM
indeed where there is love, there is always sacrifice.
Patrick Caruana says
Apr 28 2013 11:42AM
Thanks Gretchen for such a wonderful story about a truly marvelous person; St. Gianna. I never knew about her before, though now I do. Thanks again Gretchen for sharing her life on her feast day.

May God Bless You.

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Gretchen Filz Gretchen Filz

Gretchen is a Lay Dominican with a passion for fostering an increase in Catholic faith and devotion through content writing and journalism. She works as a digital content writer, creator, and marketer for The Catholic Company. In addition to blogging at, she is also editor of the daily devotional email and author at She holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics and converted to the Catholic Church in 2011. She is also active in R.C.I.A., pro-life work, and various faith-based web projects.

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