University of Mary welcomes St. Gianna’s daughter to annual vocations jamboree

by University of Mary


Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, daughter of St. Gianna Beretta Molla. (submitted photo)

Impacted by her mother and father’s love for one another, her love for family, her love for the Catholic faith, and her love for life, Gianna Beretta Molla viewed life as a beautiful gift from God, especially growing up in northern Italy with 12 siblings.

While medicine became her mission and career after World War II, Molla, a pediatrician, also chose marriage as her vocation. She once again embraced both as gifts from God and dedicated herself to forming a truly Christian family.

After marrying Pietro in 1955, their family began. In 1961, Molla became pregnant with their fourth child. Near the end of her second month of pregnancy, Molla was struck with unbearable pain. Doctors discovered she was carrying both a baby and a tumor after developing fibroma in her uterus.

According to published accounts, doctors gave Molla three choices: an abortion that would save her life and allow her to have children, yet take the life of the child she carried; a complete hysterectomy, which would preserve her life, but take the unborn child’s life and prevent a further pregnancy; removal of only the fibroma, which could result in further complications for her, but save the life of the baby.

Calling upon what her Catholic faith taught her, Molla believed every human life was a gift from God, something sacred to be respected and protected from conception to natural death. She opted for the removal of only the fibroma in order to preserve her child’s life, while at the same time realizing she may lose her life.

“If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child. I insist on it. Save the baby,” Gianna Beretta expressed to her family. On April 21, 1962, the baby was successfully delivered by Caesarean section. However, after many attempts by her doctors to save both lives, Gianna passed away from septic peritonitis a week after the baby was born. On April 24, 1994, Gianna Beretta was beatified by Pope John Paul II and officially canonized as a saint on May 16, 2004.

Today, that baby, is Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, who works full time at the Saint Gianna Foundation and will share her mother’s memory, example, testimony and spirituality with the public at the University of Mary’s annual Vocations Jamboree April 17-19. Her keynote address on April 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the new Founders Hall inside the Lumen Vitae University Center is free and open to the public. People interested in attending are encouraged to register at or contact Ed Konieczka at (701) 355-8102 or

“I know a little, in an indirect way, the heartbreak of infertility,” Emanuela Molla said in an interview with the St. Louis Review. “Many people from different parts of the world ask for me to pray, to receive their so eagerly awaited gift of a child. I tell them, if your desire is in accord with God's will, surely my mom will listen to your prayers. What a great joy for me, when (I see) these families for whom I have prayed, when they tell me through your mom's intercession we have received this so eagerly awaited gift of a child. Nothing is impossible with God."

“Dr. Molla brings to our third annual Vocations Jamboree a unique blend of grace and ‘gravitas,’” said Dr. Peter Huff, director of the Saint John Paul II Center for University Ministry and professor of theology at the University of Mary. “Celebrating God's special call to each person means first and foremost recognizing the unrepeatable dignity and beauty of every individual life. Dr. Molla's message is simple yet profound: If you want peace and justice in society, rediscover the power of respect.”

Gianna Emanuela carries on her mom’s legacy—who is regarded as a modern day example of the Lord’s words, “Greater love than this, nobody has, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”