Father Alberto Beretta, a Capuchin priest and the brother of St. Gianna Beretta Molla, was declared “venerable” on Thursday, as Pope Francis formally recognized his life of heroic virtue.
Beretta was born August 28, 1916 in Milan, Italy. He was one of 13 children raised by devout Catholic parents.
Like his saintly sister, Beretta became a doctor. But instead of pursuing a career in medicine, he felt called to join the Capuchins.
His novitiate was interrupted during World War II, when he fled to Switzerland to avoid being drafted. He returned to Italy following the war, and was ordained a priest in 1948.
For the next 33 years, he served as a missionary in Brazil, where he used his medical expertise to care for the poor and sick. He opened a medical clinic, and later helped build a hospital in the state of Maranhão, where doctors were scarce, as well as a home for people with leprosy.
Beretta became well known for his medical skill, and patients from across Brazil sought out his care. When people could not travel to him, he would make house calls, sometimes in distant regions of the country.
He celebrated daily Mass at the hospital’s chapel, and on Sundays would celebrate Mass in various local villages.
In 1982, the Capuchin priest suffered a stroke that left him partially paralyzed. He returned to Italy, where he spent the next 20 years being cared for in the local Capuchin infirmary and at the house of his brother.
Beretta was present at the beatification Mass of his sister, Gianna Beretta Molla, in 1994. Molla had died in 1962 after declining both an abortion and a morally licit operation to remove a benign uterine fibroma, in order to preserve the life of her unborn child.
Molla had at one point, before her marriage, desired to join her brother as a medical missionary in Brazil, but was unable to do so because of poor health.
Beretta died August 10, 2001. His canonization cause was opened in 2008.