During relic visit, St. Gianna called powerful intercessor for families

By: By Tom Dermody

CAPTION: Members of the Rolinitis family of Westville including parents D.L. and Stacey and children Mariah and Dalton (who served at the Mass) hold a glove once worn by St. Gianna Beretta Molla. More photos from the visit of the relics to churches in Westville and Georgetown can be found on The Catholic Post’s Facebook site.


WESTVILLE — Your family has a friend in St. Gianna Beretta Molla.

“She’s there for the family,” said Robert White, who accompanied relics of the modern-day “pro-life saint” to two Vermilion County parishes April 25-26.

Near the end of Masses at St. Mary Church in Westville and St. Isaac Jogues in Georgetown, White spoke of St. Gianna’s life, example, and powerful intercession. He and Father Timothy Sauppe, pastor, then invited the faithful forward to touch and venerate second-class relics including two pairs of gloves once worn by St. Gianna — black winter driving gloves and a blue knitted pair.

“She loves your family,” said White, president of the Society of St. Gianna who also helps manage a shrine to the saint in Warminster, Pennsylvania. “She loves your children. If you are having a problem in your family with an individual, and you are praying for their salvation and their soul, she’s going to take it to Jesus. I guarantee it.”

He explained that St. Gianna was a 20th century married physician in Italy who was pregnant with her fourth child in 1961 when it was discovered she had a large ovarian tumor. Permitting her doctors to remove only what was necessary, she told them, “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate. Choose the child. I insist on it. Save the baby.”

She died a week after giving birth to a daughter, Gianna Emanuela, on April 21, 1962.

St. Gianna was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 24, 1994, and canonized as a saint on May 16, 2004. Her husband Pietro and their last child, Gianna, were present at the ceremony.

White said relics of saints are almost always in protective cases. But when Pietro sent the Pennsylvania shrine two pair of his wife’s gloves — the other pair are blue knitted winter gloves — he sent them unsealed with the instructions that people be able to physically touch them.

Many of the faithful in Westville and Georgetown did just that, some pressing the gloves against their children. Others touched the gloves to rosaries which were distributed freely or to crucifixes or medals they had brought.

White, who has traveled with the relics for 15 years, told stories of favors he has witnessed granted through St. Gianna’s intercession, ranging from the healing of a four-year-old cancer victim to the reuniting of a mother and son who had been estranged for 15 years.

But White’s major emphasis was to “get our families back to being truly Catholic.” He went through a litany of challenges confronting families today, including pornography in the home, divorce, drug and alcohol abuse, adultery, divorce, and the current debate over same-sex marriage.

“The family is being destroyed and no one is exempt from it,” White told The Catholic Post. “Any one of us can look into our families and find problems. God gave us this great saint to help us with this.”

Asked to explain the quickly rising popularity of St. Gianna — she was chosen as co-patron of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, which Pope Francis will attend this September in Philadelphia — White said it is because she resonates with the needs of today’s families. “That’s why she was canonized so quickly,” he said.

Father Timothy Sauppe, pastor of the parishes in Westville and Georgetown, celebrated the Masses wearing a special chasuble with part of St. Gianna’s wedding gown woven into it. The chasuble features an image of St. Gianna and her daughter Mariolina kneeling before Our Lady of Lourdes.

White explained that when St. Gianna was married, she expressed the hope her wedding gown would be made into a chasuble for a son who might one day become a priest. He said that priests who wear the chasuble are considered “a spiritual son of St. Gianna.”

Father Sauppe said his parishioners and their guests responded well to the visit of the relics, and that he hopes to be present in Philadelphia for the World Meeting on Families.

In his brief presentation, White also explained the church’s long tradition of venerating relics. He cited Acts 19: 11-12, which tells of God doing miracles by the hands of St. Paul “so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.”

“This isn’t something the church made up,” he said.

For more information on St. Gianna Beretta Molla, the shrine, or the Society, visit saintgianna.org.

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