It’s not every day that someone in your family receives an honour from the Pope himself for services to the Church, let alone four of them. Source: Daily Telegraph.
But last month at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, a quartet of the Pirolas spanning two generations were inducted into the Order of St Gregory the Great for decades of work in the community.
Dr Ron Pirola and his wife Mavis are pioneering marriage and family educators, while their son Byron and his wife Francine followed in their footsteps as leaders in the Church community.
The elder Mr and Mrs Pirola, who on Thursday celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary, sat on the global Pontifical Council for The Family five times between 1981 and 2009.
“We’re big on trying to look for new things that people can live out in their daily lives,” Dr Pirola said, whose work has transcended his parish at St Mary and Joseph’s in Maroubra.
That philosophy was clear in their introduction of the Marriage Encounter retreats program to Australia in the early 1970s, which touched “tens of thousands” of lives.
They also helped roll out parish-based Antioch Youth Movement for people aged 16 to 21, and operate the Smart Loving program – which runs in person and online courses for couples.
The Parish and Marriage Resource Centre and the Family Working Group – the precursor to the Australian Catholic Marriage and Family Council – was also their doing.
Their daughter-in-law, Francine, met husband Byron at an Antioch session in 1979.
She said that after spending a year living in New York in 1989, and watching as rates of divorce rose, the Kensington couple felt a calling to help “transform” people’s marriages through Smart Loving.
“It just became clear that this was an area God wanted us to work in,” Ms Pirola said.
“It has become one of the greatest privileges of our lives. We count it as a great blessing to keep families together.”
Pirola family receive Papal Honours (Daily Telegraph)
Papal honours a family affair (The Catholic Weekly)