WINNIPEG — The first Canadian shrine of St. Gianna Beretta Molla was dedicated May 10 at St. Gianna Beretta Molla Church in Winnipeg, by Winnipeg Archbishop Richard Gagnon and illuminated by the presence of the saint’s daughter, Gianna Emanuela Molla.
“The saints tell us something important about our own lives and that is that we are all called to be saints ourselves,” Gagnon said. “St. Peter tells us, ‘like living stones, let your selves be built into a spiritual house.’ ”
The archbishop said St. Gianna shows “how each of us in our ordinary lives are called to be saints. All of her life was built on the cornerstone of Christ in such a way that her life was a vocation to sanctity. She is a saint for our time, in many ways.”
Gagnon said at a gathering the previous evening Gianna Emanuela proclaimed she was given her life because “she was much loved,” and she described life “as a sacred gift that must be honoured and protected.”
“This dedication,” the archbishop said, “reminds us of our call to the sanctity of life.”
Gianna Emanuela and Gagnon together unveiled a statue of St. Gianna, to be the centrepiece of the shrine. Gagnon said the shrine is “for the People of God. May it be a place of prayer, consolation, mercy, hope and promise.”
The statue’s creator, John Collier of Texas, who has crafted other pieces for the church, was also in attendance. “No one becomes a saint by themselves,” Collier said, “we all need each other.” He described his new work as “a mother coming from the grocery store. She is pregnant and has just been told unless she gives up the baby she may die. I decided to pick the moment when she decided what to do.”
Gianna Beretta was born in Italy in1922 and was a working mother, who lived an ordinary middle-class life. Working as a physician, her vocation was her husband and children. In September 1961, in the second month of her fourth pregnancy with Gianna Emanuela, she was diagnosed with a benign tumour in the uterus. Gianna told the doctors if they had to choose between saving her life and the life of her baby, they were to save the baby. On April 21, 1962, Holy Saturday, Gianna gave birth and died a week later. She had chosen the gift of life for her daughter. Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1994 and canonized in 2004. Gianna Emanuela followed her mother into medicine, becoming a doctor specializing in geriatrics.
“I am so happy, proud and touched,” said Gianna Emanuela following the dedication.
She quoted her father, who died on Holy Saturday in 2010, and what he said her mother believed in. “Life is, in itself, the first and irreplaceable gift of God. The human creation is sacred because of God’s presence. Each one of our deeds is done for God and Jesus and the end of our earthly days will be based on this.
“I thank God with all my heart for the beautiful gift of my mother and I am so happy that here, in Canada, there is a shrine dedicated to her.” Gianna then spoke directly to her mother, asking, “Please, try to answer all of the intercessions of those who pray to you here at this shrine.
“How many suffer in the world?” she asked. “ I am happy to share my saint mother with all people who suffer. I feel your affectionate welcome and I feel that you are a big family. You are the soul of this church, and now I feel part of this family, too.”
Gagnon charged the parishioners of St. Gianna’s with a new and ongoing responsibility, saying, “There will be people coming from all over to this shrine so the parish has an important role to play in that.”