Erin Stoyell-Mulholland, Staff Writer

Dr. Thomas McKenna, President of the St. Gianna Physicians Guild, visited Notre Dame to discuss the life of “St. Gianna Beretta Molla: A Modern-Day Hero of Divine Love” on Friday, February 22 over lunch in the Coleman-Morse Lounge. The Center for Ethics and Culture co-sponsored this event with the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend.

Father Bill Miscamble, CSC,  led in prayer and ended by reading from a St. Gianna prayer card: “St.Gianna, pray for us always that we have a heart meek and courageous, like the Heart of Jesus in Whom we find our healing and strength.”

McKenna began his talk by giving the audience a little background on the St. Gianna Physicians Guild. Having written a biography on St. Gianna and being privileged to know her family personally, McKenna is very knowledgeable about St. Gianna.

Cardinal Raymond Burke co-founded the St. Gianna Physicians Guild with McKenna. The idea for the guild stemmed from medical discussion of bioethical issues in the pro-life community.

“Science is on our side,” said McKenna, a conviction that sparked a need to unite doctors who hold the same values.

The Guild recognizes the need for physicians who are willing to stand up for their principles. McKenna noted that in the medical field, abortionists are looked down upon because they take lives rather than save lives. At this point, McKenna began to talk about the canonization of St. Gianna. She was canonized in May 2004 and was the last saint to have been canonized by Blessed John Paul II who called her the “mother of families.” This was also the first time the husband and children of a canonized saint were present for the canonization ceremony.

McKenna then went on to define what a saint is. He said a saint is a person who practices virtue to a heroic degree. Although she is most well-known for sacrificing her life for the life of her child, McKenna explained St. Gianna’s wholly holy life. St. Gianna was a hero in her daily life through the way she exemplified virtues.

Because St. Gianna is a modern saint, it is easier for our contemporary generation to relate to her. She had a hobby of painting, she loved to hike and ski and she attended the opera. She did all of this with her Catholic faith being her moral compass.

One of 13 children, St. Gianna looked up to her brother, Father Alberto, as her role model. He was a medical missionary from Brazil, and so she too desired to go to Brazil. She became a pediatrician and began to learn Portuguese, but her spiritual director urged her not to go to Brazil.

Shortly thereafter she met her husband Pietro and they became engaged. In the span of 7 years, she had three children who were the joys of her life and whom she called “little jewels.” After this, St. Gianna had two miscarriages, and after becoming pregnant a third time, the doctors informed her of a benign tumor growing. The doctors advised a hysterectomy, but performing the surgery would take the life of the child. St. Gianna refused, saying, “my child has the same right to life as my other three children.”

So St. Gianna opted for the risky procedure to solely remove the tumor. This operation was a success, and she was able to carry her child to term. Throughout her pregnancy, she repeatedly told her husband, “if you have to choose between me and the baby, choose the baby.”

St. Gianna died a week after the birth of her child Gianna Emmanuela. In the week leading up to her death, St. Gianna was in terrible suffering, both physical and moral. She felt terrible about leaving behind four children and her husband, but she decided if it was God’s will, let it be done.

McKenna claimed that the more we know about the life of a saint, the more we can imitate their lives. Just as the proclamation of St. Gianna’s life is a model for Catholic life, the St. Gianna Physicians Guild encourages physicians to embrace their Catholic beliefs through their daily practice.

Erin Stoyell-Mulholland is a sophomore who enjoys playing Heroes of Might and Magic III, Deluxe Edition, for the PC. Her favorite civilization is “Rampart.” Offer gaming strategies or challenge her might at