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As part of his trip to Rome last month, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki met with Dr. Gianna Baretta Molla on April 29 to discuss the St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Pietro Molla International Center for Family and Life, which will be located in Springfield. Their visit together also included the celebration of Mass inside St. Peter’s Basilica with Dr. Molla and other clergy from the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois who were also visiting Rome. From left to right: Troy Niemerg (seminarian), Deacon Rob Sgambelluri, Dr. Molla, Bishop Paprocki, Father Dominic Rankin, Father Christopher Trummer, and P.J. Staab (Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception parishioner).Diocese of Springfield, Illinois

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois (Diocese of Springfield in Illinois) – The daughter of one the most popular modern-day Catholic saints announced plans to establish an international pilgrimage site and center in Springfield to help spread knowledge of and devotion to her holy parents’ virtues and, thus, to promote the holiness of the family and respect for the sanctity of all human life.

Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, the daughter of Italian saint St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962) and Pietro Molla, will establish the St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Pietro Molla International Center for Family and Life, which will be a peaceful place of prayer, learning, study, and spirituality for pilgrims. 

“I learned from my saint mom and holy dad to have deep faith and unwavering confidence in divine Providence,” Dr. Molla said. “The establishment of this international center is one of those times I am trusting in God to show me the way and all those who are involved in the project. I am filled with humility to start this international center so we can promote and help families grow holier together.” 

Dr. Molla said that she chose Springfield because of Bishop Thomas John Paprocki’s faith-filled leadership and his steadfast commitment to defend innocent life, Springfield is in the United States, where there is much devotion to her holy parents, and because of Springfield’s central location, especially being within driving distance of St. Louis and Chicago. Ultimately, she said, “It was God who chose Springfield.” Dr. Molla said she plans to live on the grounds once the center is open and when she is in the U.S.

St. Gianna Molla and Pietro Molla

The St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Pietro Molla International Center for Family and Life will be located near the St. Francis of Assisi Church and the Evermode Institute (4875 Laverna Rd, Springfield, IL 62707), of which the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois announced the establishment in March, as part of the transition of ownership and care of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis’ convent and associated buildings and grounds. The Evermode Institute, a new center for Catholic spiritual and intellectual formation, will also soon include priests from the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey.

The St. Gianna Beretta Molla and Pietro Molla International Center for Family and Life will include:

  • A replica of the spousal home of Gianna and Pietro as it was in Ponte Nuovo of Magenta in Milan, Italy (with the help of the original photos and films);
  • A pilgrim center, located between the replica of the spousal home and the replica of the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel, to be built in different phases and according to the needs that arise;
  • A replica of the original Chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel with attached rectory as it was in Ponte Nuovo of Magenta (with the help of the original photos);
  • A shrine church of St. Gianna as an enlargement of the Chapel of Our Lady of Good Counsel to which it is completely joined;
  • A rectory for visiting clergy.

“For years, Dr. Molla has been searching for a site to honor her holy parents and promote holy marriages and families, and if you want to see firsthand how divine Providence can work, the story of how this all came together is the perfect example,” Bishop Paprocki said. “I happened to meet Dr. Molla in a shared car ride to a conference at the Napa Institute in California in 2019. That time in the car helped us form a friendship that resulted in Dr. Molla later reaching out to me asking about having this international center in Springfield. Then, in January, when a trust under the care of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois assumed ownership of the property of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis, we announced plans to establish the Evermode Institute and having the Norbertine Fathers from Orange, California establish a community there. By us having these faith-enriching endeavors in place, it was an easy decision for Gianna to decide this international center should be built near the St. Francis of Assisi Church and the Evermode Institute.”

“The excitement of what is shaping up in central Illinois is proof the Holy Spirit is guiding all of this. To think, central Illinois will have the Evermode Institute, the St. Gianna and Pietro Molla International Center for Family and Life, our own Venerable Father Augustine Tolton in Quincy, who is on his way to sainthood, and Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen in Peoria – this region of America will provide so much grace to people around the world who visit.”

The center is expected to bring tens of thousands of pilgrims to Springfield every year from all over the world, as St. Gianna is known as a saint for mothers, families, healthcare workers, and the pro-life cause, as she herself raised four children, was a pediatrician, and died from complications after giving birth to her daughter Gianna.

Gianna Emanuela Molla with Bishop Thomas Paprocki

While pregnant with her fourth child in 1961, St. Gianna felt much pain, which led to the discovery of a tumor in her uterus. Doctors discussed having an abortion to preserve St. Gianna’s life. Instead, St. Gianna chose to have only the tumor removed, understanding this could save her child but lead to further, perhaps deadly, complications for herself. St. Gianna’s faith gave her perfect clarity and confidence in this critical moment of choice.

Both the baby and St. Gianna survived the surgery, but knowing she that could lose her life delivering her child, St. Gianna prayed to God and told the doctors and her family, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate, choose the child. I insist on it. Save the baby.”

On April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela Molla was born. Over the next week, however, St. Gianna, the mother, dealt with further serious complications. Despite several treatments, St. Gianna died a week after giving birth. Her selfless act of love of choosing the life of her child over herself had been another astounding demonstration of her deep faith.

As word spread of St. Gianna’s greatest act of love, the Catholic Church opened her cause for sainthood, and faith-filled people from around the world started asking St. Gianna for her intercession, leading to two Church-approved miracles. 

The Mollas with St. John Paul II

She was canonized a saint by Pope St. John Paul II in 1994. At her canonization were her husband Pietro and children, including her daughter Gianna, whom she saved. They both met the Holy Father. It was the first time a husband witnessed his wife’s canonization. Today, St. Gianna is the patron saint of mothers, physicians, and unborn children. Her feast day is April 28.

As Pope St. John Paul II said of St. Gianna, she was “a simple, but more than ever, significant messenger of divine love.”