LINCOLN (SNR) - More than 1,000 people crowded the pews and the aisles at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln the evening of July 20 to hear a presentation by Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of Saint Gianna Beretta Molla.
Dr. Molla came to Lincoln from her home near Milan, Italy, primarily for the dedication of the new apartment building that is part of Saint Gianna’s Women’s Homes, an outreach project of Catholic Social Services (CSS). The apartments are reserved for women who are at risk for abuse and/or abortion, and their children.
After opening the event with prayer and a litany to St. Gianna, Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz noted how rare it is to be able to hear from and speak with the child of a canonized saint.
"She, her brother and sister are the first children ever to attend the canonization of their mother," he said.
Dr. Molla was introduced to the audience by Dr. Thomas McKenna. Founder and president of the St. Gianna Physician’s Guild, he was escorting her on her first U.S. speaking tour. In addition to Lincoln, she spoke at a Priests for Life Mass in Pennsylvania and gave talks in New Jersey, California and Missouri. She also participated in a daylong conference on end-of-life-issues in Kansas.
In Lincoln, Dr. Molla first gave thanks for the gift of her own life. She acknowledged that she owes her life to both God and her mother, who refused an abortion when a painful but benign tumor was discovered during the pregnancy.
"Life is the most sacred gift," Dr. Molla said in a pronounced Italian accent. "We must always honor, respect and defend it."
Her voice already straining under the stress of daily speeches and many personal interactions with faithful Catholics over the preceding days, Dr. Molla spoke extensively about both her parents, her "saint mami" and her beloved father, Pietro, who died on Holy Saturday last year.
"He was a wonderful dad," Dr. Molla said.
Emotionally, she revealed how much she missed her father’s affection and how happy she was that she had been able to care for him in the final seven years of his life.
She noted that her father made absolutely sure that Dr. Molla never felt as though she was the cause of her mother’s untimely death at the age of 39. He wrote a book for the young siblings so that they would always remember their mother’s loving devotion to God.
"God loved my mother very much and my mother every day responded to His love," Dr. Molla said.
Dr. Molla recounted Saint Gianna’s last moments in 1962 vividly. Just a few hours after she was born, she noted, her mother’s condition became quite grave.
Still, the saint’s faith in the Lord remained steadfast. She repeated over and over, "Jesus, I love you," as her body grew weaker from infection.
The lesson that Saint Gianna taught her family about faith was evident in "her complete and loving acceptance of His Divine Will, even though there was some sorrow in leaving her loved ones," Dr. Molla said.
She then spoke of her father’s great sorrow at losing his wife, and his concern that he would be able to raise their children in faith, as Saint Gianna intended. Dr. Molla quoted him extensively: "Life in itself is the first and most important of God’s gifts…The human creature is scared because of God’s presence."
After Dr. Molla’s speech and closing remarks by Dr. McKenna and Father Christopher Kubat, director of CSS, hundreds of faithful laypersons and religious stood in line for more than 40 minutes to venerate relics of Saint Gianna.
The relics included a lock of her hair, a pair of her gloves and a fetoscope, a wooden stethoscope used to listen to the heartbeat of an unborn child. These were on display before a framed portrait and relic of Saint Gianna that is now on display at Saint Gianna’s Women’s Homes.
Meanwhile, Dr. Molla greeted throngs of visitors in Crowley Hall. She posed for photos, admired babies and assured the many well-wishers of her prayers for the intercession of her beloved "saint mami."