St. Gianna Beretta Molla’s home after her marriage and the church where her children were baptized will soon be restored in Ponte Nuovo of Magenta (Milan), Italy — thanks to the efforts of her family — as part of a larger project in her memory, the St. Gianna Beretta Molla International Center.
In honor of the saint’s April 28 feast day and Mother’s Day, the Register spoke via email with her daughter Gianna Emanuela Molla about these developments.
Why is this such an important place connected to your saintly mother?
Ponte Nuovo is such an important place because, here, my saint-mom lived with my dad, Pietro, and my brother and sisters, for six and a half years as a spouse and as a mother. Here, my mom, as a pediatrician, devoted herself to work as the director of the advisory center for mothers and for the nursery linked to the Opera Nazionale Maternità e Infanzia (O.N.M.I., a national organization for motherhood and childhood) — and she also worked as a volunteer at the medical service of the nursery school and of the primary school. Here, she entered paradise.
After their marriage, my parents went to live in Ponte Nuovo, in the small house that was usually given to the family of the director of the S.A.F.F.A (Società per Azioni Fabbriche Fiammiferi ed Affini) Factory (that was the largest factory of all the factories that S.A.F.F.A. Co. had in Italy). My dad had already been living in this house, a S.A.F.F.A. company property, since 1950, when he was appointed director.
In this house, in her spousal bed, my mother gave birth to my brother, Pierluigi, and to my sisters, Maria Zita (Mariolina) and Laura; here, my parents raised them; here, in her nuptial bed, my mom died of septic peritonitis on April 28, 1962, at the early age of 39, after giving birth to me at San Gerardo Hospital in Monza (Milan) a week before.
My dad, with my brother, my sisters and me, went on living in this house, which was enlarged to answer my family’s needs in 1963. On Feb. 12, 1964, my dad witnessed his other greatest sorrow: Mariolina, at only 6 years of age, joined our mother in heaven because of an acute glomerulonephritis (kidney inflammation) and kidney failure. We continued living in this house, until 1981; then, we all moved to Milan, because the S.A.F.F.A. Co. had need for this house.
How will this house be a relic?
With much love, my dad preserved and took care of all of the original furniture that was in the home during the years he lived there with my mom. This includes all of the furnishings in the nuptial bedroom, the small dining room, the living room and the kitchen. At present, I continue to care for and preserve this furniture with the same great love as my daddy.
My saint-mom touched this furniture many, many times … as well as the windows, the doors and the walls of her spousal home. This act of touching by her makes it more “holy.” Therefore, I also feel it is my duty to preserve and take care of both the furniture and the home, because all of this is a relic now that my mom is a canonized saint.
Since 1981, S.A.F.F.A. left the house in Ponte Nuovo uninhabited. Long after, when the company had a series of corporate changes, it was completely abandoned. At present, it is in very bad condition, due to heavy deterioration.
Once the home is restored, the same domestic rooms where my parents lived will be re-created: the nuptial bedroom, the small dining room, the living room, the kitchen; in every room, the original furniture will be returned to their places. One of my mom’s pediatrics offices will be reconstructed, and in this room her medical books and instruments will be placed. There will be museum rooms, with the permanent exhibit of my mom’s [clothing] relics (gloves, scarves, etc.) for the veneration of pilgrims and devotees of her, with the possibility to touch them. I am so very happy to share all of these relics with my saint-mom’s devotees.
Why is including Our Lady of Good Counsel Church so important?
This church is so important because, here, my saint-mom went every day to pray and to attend holy Mass during her six and a half years as a spouse and as a mother; here, my parents wanted my brother, my sisters and me to be baptized and then consecrated to Our Lady of Good Counsel; here, my mom’s funeral was celebrated.
My dad himself was deeply devoted to this small church. He attributed the grace of meeting my mom all to his invocations to Our Lady of Good Counsel. In turn, my mom attributed her meaningful meeting of Dad to the Virgin Mary of Lourdes; since the day the church was built, a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes has always been kept inside.
At present, the small church is in good condition, as compared to the house, thanks to the continuity of its use; however, it needs some restoration in order to improve it, to make it more decorative and comfortable and to preserve it in time.
What are you restoring now, and what is the goal of the project?
At present, I am dedicated, with a great trust and hope in divine Providence, to raise the funds to restore the spousal home of my saint-mom and my dad. The house’s condition is heavily deteriorated and worsens with each passing day.
The goal of the project is to honor and promote knowledge of my saint-mother and her spirituality and to spread devotion to her by restoring as a place of pilgrimage and prayer the place where my saint-mom lived as a spouse, a mother, a doctor and a “Martyr to Life,” thus keeping alive and perpetuating her memory and her example.
My daddy was enthusiastic about the project. And now that [we pray] he lives forever in paradise with my mom and Mariolina, I feel bound to do anything I can, thus keeping my promise to him, to realize his and our dream, and of all our family as well, in order to keep Ponte Nuovo alive — not only in memory and in the example of my most beloved and saint-mom, but even of my most beloved dad.
Why will the adoration chapel be important, too?
The creation, in the spousal home, of an adoration chapel for prayer with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament — such as my uncle, Father Alberto [a “Servant of God,” whose beatification cause has opened] advised — highlights the sacredness of the house and makes it even more “holy.”
I think that the living presence of the Blessed Sacrament allows us to feel the Lord Jesus even more close to us; and through him, we can also feel my saint-mom is even more close to us, since she now enjoys paradise’s joy, God’s sight, joy and forever.
Pilgrims and devotees would like to pray to her and ask for her intercession in these holy places, to overcome their difficult moments, or to find out their own vocation, or for other intentions they have in their hearts.
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.
The “St. Gianna Restoration Fund” has been established with the National Catholic Community Foundation, a U.S. community foundation, contributions into which are tax-deducible: NCCFCommunity.org / Donate to a Fund, Gift Designation: St. Gianna Restoration Fund.
“Project Ponte Nuovo” information can be found at: SaintGianna.org, on the home page, in “Links.” Information can also be found at StGiannaParish.org, on the homepage.
SAINTLY SURROUNDINGS. St. Gianna with children Pierluigi and Mariolina in their home garden in 1958. Family photo courtesy of Gianna Emanuela Molla