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One of the Church's newer canonized saints was honored in Manhattan this week, with an unusual twist. Among those paying tribute to her was her son.
St. Gianna Beretta Molla may be the first saint ever canonized while her children are still alive. She spent her life in her native Italy as a physician, wife and mother. In 1962, pregnant with her fourth child, she developed a uterine tumor. She refused to have an abortion or hysterectomy, and insisted that if a choice had to be made between herself and the baby, doctors were to save the baby.
She died at age 39, a week after giving birth to a healthy girl.
St. Gianna was beatified in 1994 and was canonized May 16, 2004. She is honored especially for her courageous witness to life, and she is being promoted in particular as a patron of couples struggling with infertility.
She also was chosen as patron by Gianna: The Catholic Healthcare Center for Women, a facility in Manhattan that offers general health care for women, including special treatment for infertility. All of its services are pro-life and in conformity with Church teaching.
On May 17, Archbishop Dolan visited the Gianna Center for the enshrinement of a photograph and relic of St. Gianna. The archbishop led a prayer service and blessed the image and the center's offices.
A Mass was celebrated that evening at St. Catherine of Siena Church especially for couples battling infertility, to honor St. Gianna and seek her intercession.
Speaking at both events was Pierluigi Molla, eldest child and only son of St. Gianna. He noted that as a pediatrician she devoted herself to the care of mothers and children. He called the Gianna Center "a wonderful way to honor her memory."
He remarked that his mother, while deeply devoted to her faith, her family and her patients, also loved skiing, rock climbing and music. In an interview later, he said, "The message is that an ordinary life can be blessed. It's not necessary to do extraordinary things." She was canonized, he said, "for how she lived her life and not just for how she sacrificed it."