ACU awards honorary doctorates to Ron and Mavis Pirola

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
31 May 2016

Dr and Mrs Pirola at the ceremony

Australian Catholic University last week awarded honorary doctorates to Dr Romano (Ron) and Mrs Mavis Pirola.

The couple were recognised for their faith and scholarly based leadership nationally and internationally in promoting marriage and the family, in accordance with the Catholic tradition.

Chancellor John Fahey bestowed the honorary doctorates at a graduation ceremony in Sydney on Wednesday.
Happily married for 55 years, parents of four adult children and grandparents to eight, Dr and Mrs Pirola served as Joint Chairs of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council and were also Couple Chairs of the Council's forerunner, the Family Working Group.

They were the founding members of the Pontifical Council on the Family where they served for more than 25 years from 1985 to 2010 and conduct marriage seminars, marriage retreats and marriage workshops throughout the year.

Addressing the graduands at the ceremony, Dr Pirola said that when they graduated from university, the couple "never dreamt that [they] would one day be on advisory bodies on the family to three popes.

"Over the next half century," he asked, "what will emerge from the intricate weavings of your own life journey - your education, your relationships, your community service, your faith and chosen values?"

Dr Pirola told the students that their education was a public good that can lead the world to a better place, and encouraged them to "find the way to take the gift of your education in faith and reason, to speak the truth in love."

The official citation for Dr and Mrs Pirola is below.

Citation for honorary doctorate: Dr Ron and Mrs Mavis Pirola

Dr Romano (Ron) and Mrs Mavis Pirola are people with outstanding integrity and are leaders in community and Church. They are committed to promoting married life, and advancing learning and scholarship with a deep foundation in the Catholic intellectual tradition.

Dr Pirola is a consultant gastroenterologist and pancreatologist whose clinical career has been closely associated with Prince of Wales Hospital and Liverpool Hospital in Sydney.  He graduated in medicine from the University of Sydney, was awarded a Doctorate in Medicine at the University of NSW, a Fellowship of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and received post-doctoral training at The Royal Free Hospital (London) and Mt Sinai School of Medicine (New York).

The Pirolas were recognised for their leadership in marriage and the family.

Dr Pirola's life-long research interest has been the pathogenesis of diseases of the pancreas. In 1981 he co-founded the internationally renowned Pancreatic Research Group at the University of NSW and has received virtually continuous National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) funding since then. He is a recent Past-President of the Australasian Pancreatic Club. He is the author of a textbook, several book chapters and more than 100 publications in peer-reviewed journals. He tutors at Notre Dame University (Sydney) and is a Senior Examiner for the Australian Medical Council.

Mrs Pirola was a high school teacher who received her Bachelor of Arts from the University of Sydney and a Teachers Diploma at Sydney Teachers College. After several years of teaching she devoted her life to her family and family ministry. Between 2005 and 2010 Mrs Pirola was an Adjunct Lecturer at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Melbourne.

Working as a couple and as a family, Dr and Mrs Pirola have worked tirelessly to promote the concept of co-responsibility of the laity for the life and mission of the Church. They pioneered the introduction into Australia of a number of programs for the enrichment of marriage and family life, notably the World Wide Marriage Encounter.

In 1997 they were each awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for their community activities, especially through the Antioch Youth Movement. For the past decade they have been Joint Chairs of the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council and prior to that they chaired its forerunner, the
Family Working Group.

Their grassroots activities have been recognised by the Vatican. In 1981 they were appointed as one of 20 couples from around the world to be founding members of the Pontifical Council for the Family. Through five successive appointments they served for 27 years on the Council, publishing 16 papers in the process. They were invited speakers on the topic of family at the 1987 Synod on the Laity. In 1998 they were awarded Papal Honours of Knight and Dame of the Order of St Gregory for services to the Church in the field of family ministry.

In 2014, Professor and Mrs Pirola were appointed by Pope Francis as one of 14 married couples from dioceses worldwide to participate in the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family. The Synod called on invitees to propose ways to improve the pastoral application of Church teachings, along with new ways to explain to help Catholics live them.