After completing secondary school, she decided to study medicine, specializing in pediatrics. Once she had completed her medical degree, St. Gianna considered joining her brother, a missionary priest in Brazil. However, in late 1954 she met Pietro Molla, an engineer and fellow member of Catholic Action. It became clear that she was called to the vocation of marriage. She and Pietro were married in September 1955.
Gianna and Pietro already had three children when she became pregnant in 1961. Early in the pregnancy, a dangerous fibroma was discovered on her uterus. Choosing the route of treatment least dangerous to her unborn child, Gianna underwent surgery to remove the fibroma.
The operation was successful and the baby survived, but Gianna knew that complications could develop. She made her wishes clear to her family, saying, “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.”
On April 21, 1962, Gianna’s fourth child, Gianna Emanuella, was successfully delivered via Caesarean section. However, Gianna continued to have severe pain, and died of infection seven days after her daughter’s birth.
Pope John Paul II canonized Gianna Molla on May 16, 2004. Her husband and youngest child were present at the canonization ceremony. St. Gianna’s feast day is April 28.
Many people can relate to St. Gianna, who was a spouse, professional, and mom who worked outside the home. Most of us won’t be called to make the heroic sacrifice that St. Gianna did, but all of us are called to make the little sacrifices that marriage and family life requires. It’s through those little sacrifices that we, too, can become saints.