First Mass at parish named for a saint and mother

On the Saturday before Mother’s Day, a saint and mother was honored not only by a first Mass at her namesake parish, but also by her son in attendance.

The inaugural Mass on Saturday afternoon, May 8, at St. Gianna Beretta Molla Parish in Northfield brought together faith communities from the former St. Bernadette and St. Peter, Pleasantville, parishes, the Sisters of Mercy, and the Knights of Columbus to celebrate not only unity, but the Magenta, Italy-born St. Gianna.

A physician, St. Gianna, when diagnosed with uterine cancer while pregnant, refused treatment for the tumor to save her child’s life. She died at the age of 39 on April 28, 1962, a week after giving birth to her daughter.

Her son, Pierluigi, of Milan, carried a processional banner into the church. He was followed by four children portraying St. Gianna and her children: Andrea Cortellessa (St. Gianna), Tyler Soto (young Pierluigi), Kelsey Kern (Mariolina), and Angela Marie Timm (Lauretta).

Father Patrick Brady, pastor, said, “It was an unforgettable experience for the people of the merged parishes to have the opportunity of interacting in a very personal way with Pierluigi.”

Bishop Joseph A. Galante, wearing a piece of fabric that was a part of St. Gianna’s wedding gown, installed Father Patrick Brady as pastor of the new community. A pre-liturgy ceremony saw one parishioner each from St. Bernadette and St. Peter light a joint unity candle together, symbolic of the two churches becoming one.

The Mass was celebrated and St. Gianna — a laywoman and mother considered a pro-life saint — was honored the day before Mother’s Day. Banners honoring mothers, and created by the two parish communities, were placed around the altar.

St. Gianna was beatified in 1994, when a miracle was attributed to her in the case of a dying Brazilian woman who was healed. A second miracle came about in 2003, when a healthy newborn girl was born to a woman who had lost her amniotic fluid; the woman’s bishop had prayed to St. Gianna, for intervention. In 2004, Pope John Paul II made her a saint, when St. Gianna would have been 81.

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