Honorary Doctorate for family leadership

Published: Thursday 26th May 2016

Dr Ron and Mavis Pirola were recently awarded an honorary doctorate in recognition of their leadership in promoting marriage and the family, in accordance with the Catholic tradition.

The citation read:

"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).

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."