Remembering our Papa

I read this article last year published by the Knights of Columbus and wanted to share it today in honor of Father’s day because I think it is absolutely beautiful. St. Gianna is one of my favorite saints and her children wrote this reflection in honor of their father who died in 2o10. 

St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962), a wife, mother and physician from Milan, Italy, was known for her strong faith, generous works of charity and passion for life.

In 1955, she married Pietro Molla, and six years later, while pregnant with their fourth child, she developed a painful, benign tumor in her uterus. She pleaded with the surgeon to spare the life of her child, and throughout the pregnancy, was willing to sacrifice her life for her baby. On April 28, 1962, seven days after Gianna Emanuela was born, St. Gianna Beretta Molla died, exclaiming, “Jesus, I love you.”

Her husband Pietro never remarried. On May 16, 2004, he was present, along with his three surviving children, in St. Peter’s Square to see his wife become the last saint canonized by Pope John Paul II. In the early morning on Holy Saturday, April 3, 2010, Pietro died in his home in Mesero, Italy, surrounded by his children. He was 97.

At the invitation of Columbia magazine and through the assistance of Basilian Father Thomas Rosica, CEO of Canada’s Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation and a member of Toronto Council 1388, the Molla children offer here their reflections about their beloved father. A Salt and Light-produced documentary about the life of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, titled Love is Choice, is available at

Dr. Gianna Emanuela Molla, 48, is a medical doctor with a specialty in gerontology. She had spent the past years caring for her father in Mesero until his death.

You will forgive me for not writing extensive memories so cherished, vivid and unforgettable about my father, Pietro. The tears still flow, and I am not able to write much since his death on Holy Saturday of this year. Everything that I think, that I do and that I say always takes me back to him with whom I had the grace, the joy and the honor of sharing the past 48 years of my life, indeed my entire life.

He was the greatest treasure that I had on this earth, and I told him this often. With each passing day I feel his absence and the deep void that he left us. I miss hearing his voice as he called my name. I miss his kisses and his great affection. To be sure I will never be able to thank the Lord who for so many years gave and left me a father who was golden; a father who was more than worthy of his beloved holy wife; a father who was always close to me even to the final moments. It is a great comfort and peace to me to know that he is so happy now in paradise with Mamma and with Mariolina (our sister) and all of our beloved dead who have gone before us. I know that I have another guardian in paradise who will help me, guide me and protect me even more than before. And I pray that the Lord will make me worthy of him as well as of my holy mother, so that one day I may join them and embrace them, never to leave them again.

For now I cannot help but suffer the tangible absence of his visible and loving presence. Pierluigi and Laura have written beautiful memories of him that have touched and moved me deeply and that fill my emptiness and inability to write at this moment. — Gianna

Pierluigi Molla is 53 years old. Married to Lisi, they have one daughter, Ortensia. Pierluigi is senior advisor of Ernst & Young Accounting Firm in Milan.

Papa was always there for me as a reference point, a source of strength and a help in every choice of my life, always there with an affectionate hug. He was a man of great discretion, a quiet voice who never wished to impose his authority for its own sake, but always with clear, determined arguments that were based on true principles. Papa always wished to offer and model for us principles, rules, and personal and religious customs that showed us how much these were at the core of his being.

He was a father extraordinarily close to each of us from childhood, through our student years and in our adult lives. His familiar words were: “Can I help you?” He would offer his help whether I was doing a Greek or Latin translation or dealing with something work-related. In every occasion, despite his constant availability and his few moments of rest due to his workload, he was always able to be a source of help for me and for others with his great generosity, enthusiasm, and cultural and intellectual richness.

He lived and passed on to us a fatherhood that was characterized by responsibility, good example and a sense of duty. He first lived those qualities in his daily life and dedicated himself to work, to family and to God with a deep respect for his neighbor.

Papa found himself in two very painful struggles over the course of two years — the death of my mother in 1962 and only two years later the death of my sister, Mariolina. Papa had to become a guide and support in my growth and in the growth of my sisters, always seeking to alleviate suffering and to help us grow without a maternal figure in our lives. He succeeded at this thanks to his great love and to the care and sensitivity that always sustained us through his counsel that was never imposed, but always available.

We would never be able to ask God for a better father who showered affection upon us all the days of our lives. I do not remember exactly when my father accepted his vocation of being married to a saint, nor do I recall his opposing such a vocation, especially through the beatification process of our mother. Because of our young age, we were not involved in the decision. Knowing my father as I did, I do believe that he accepted this decision with love and respect for life and for my mother. I am convinced that because he did not oppose this process, he honored the memory of his beloved wife. His decision to accept this path for love of my mother was made out of respect for the will of God made manifest through the Church’s decision. This is what my father lived throughout his whole life without ever backing away, even in very difficult emotional moments. He was a great example of love, constancy and faith.
— Pierluigi

Laura Molla, 51, is a corporate executive in Milan. She is married to Giuseppe Panutti. Laura chose to write her reflections in the form of a letter to her father.

Dear Papa,
You are so present and alive in my heart as you have always been throughout my life, and I feel guilty for not having thought of the inevitable physical separation that has taken place. Yet, it could not help but be this way, especially given the many times from when I was 3 years old that you repeated to me that even “from above Mamma was able to see me, hear me, protect and guide me.”

Now I have three heavenly guardians; beside my mother and my sister Mariolina, there is you. You guided and counseled me with such patience, constancy and firmness, and your example never deprived me of one moment of your love, wisdom and precious counsel. I am certain that you will continue to do this through the force of eternal love that now unites us.

The Lord God gave us two immeasurable gifts: a holy mother in heaven and an exemplary father on earth. Would I ever be worthy of such gifts? I know that I must do everything possible to merit them because this has taught me to dedicate my whole life to do the will of the Lord and to thank him for his constant and faithful goodness, sharing with others the gifts I have received.

How many beautiful words of comfort have been sent to us children from innumerable persons who knew you! You were the quintessential model showing us that those who give unconditionally receive just as much in return. I never heard or saw you deny the most lowly or highly-placed person. You faced daily life with such humility, always offering your precious help even in the simplest domestic inconveniences, notwithstanding your thousands of work and social commitments. You met all of these challenges of life with great enthusiasm and untiring willpower. Your thirst for knowledge and innovation always marked you and were a particular inspiration to me. You always dealt with problems with your whole heart and with great diplomacy, repeating to me that “to postpone things too often is not to do them.” Your untiring work as a CEO, a father and as principal steward of the memories of mother and the spreading of her message throughout the world — along with your constant turning to the Lord and to mother through prayer — have been for me a great example.

In order to always do the will of God and to honor the memory of Mamma, you accepted to share with the world the splendid but brief story of the earthly life that the two of you lived together. Thank you for always loving me so much even when you were not in full agreement with my choices and my behavior. Thank you for the great patience that you always showed toward me and for never regretting the sacrifices that you made for my happiness.

Always with great love,


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