Fr. Alberto Enrico Beretta was a humble Franciscan friar who was also the brother of St. Gianna Molla.
While St. Padre Pio was an extraordinary Italian Capuchin friar who was widely known as a spiritual mystic and supernatural healer, he wasn’t the only one. In fact, during Pio’s lifetime there was another Italian Capuchin friar who was similarly known for his holiness and sought after for his healing abilities, for both physical and spiritual ailments.
Born in Milan in 1916, Alberto Enrico Beretta came from a holy Catholic family who fostered in their children a deep love of God and a great concern for others. One of his sisters is now known as St. Gianna Molla and was a faithful doctor and mother. Beretta was a quiet boy, who devoted himself to his studies and eventually earned his doctorate in medicine.
However, a career in the medical field wasn’t his path, as he was led to join the Capuchin Franciscan friars. In particular, he was greatly concerned about the state of the poor and wanted to do all he could to help. He had learned about the poverty of the missions from a Capuchin friar from Brazil and it inflamed a desire within him. On the day of his father’s death Beretta said to his brother, “I want to be a missionary Capuchin and a doctor in Grajaú, where there is no doctor in a vast region.”
Beretta was ordained to the priesthood on March 13, 1948 and was shortly thereafter sent as a missionary to Brazil. By 1950 Beretta began the construction of a hospital there, which was completed in 1957. He tended to the medical needs of many patients at the hospital, but also frequently visited the people to give them proper medical attention.
In particular, Beretta served the needs of lepers in the area and his medical expertise attracted special cases from all over Brazil. Since he was one of the only doctors around, Beretta made house calls for every medical need, treating patients who could never have afforded a doctor.
He tirelessly served the poorest people of Brazil for 33 years until one day he had a stroke. This forced him to return to Italy, where he remained for the last 20 years of his life. There he was a silent witness to the Gospel, offering up his many sufferings to God for the people of the world.
He died in 2001 and the cause for his canonization was officially opened in 2008, when he received the title “Servant of God.”