After 55 years of happy marriage, Ron and Mavis Pirola could probably finish each other's sentences. But they don't, instead choosing to preserve the space belonging to the other.
In recent months Ron and Mavis Pirola, both 78, have attracted a degree of publicity since speaking at last year’s Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and the Family in Rome. While the Pirolas weren’t officially representing any group, effectively they were in Rome as bearers of the countless family stories they have heard from many years of ministry.
Marriage is their thing, and they have not only lived it faithfully, but thought, talked, written and prayed about it. They are wary of being portrayed as extraordinary and are generous in sharing their lives, lows as well as highs. In fact Ron says, simply, “We’ve had some bloody tough times.”
Ron was born in Mexico City of an Italian father and English mother. Mavis says, “I was from an Anglo-Saxon/Irish background, I only knew spaghetti in tins! We shared a common faith, very much in terms of getting to Mass on Sundays, doing the Catholic thing. I came from a ‘mixed marriage’ and it was difficult to talk about faith in the family.” When she began to be interested in Ron, Mavis remembers thinking, "Well, at least he's Catholic!"
A life-changing encounter to which Ron and Mavis frequently refer was with a Chinese-Mauritian couple they met while Ron was a trainee doctor in Perth. Reg and Jeannette Lam-Po-Tang introduced Ron and Mavis to Equipes Notre-Dame, or Teams of Our Lady – a lay spirituality movement for married couples. It meant meeting together once a month with other couples and supporting each other in their faith journey. “It led us into an understanding that our marriage was important, not just for us and for our children, but in a wider sense,” said Mavis.
In acknowledging the importance of Catholic faith in their relationship, Ron owns that it was very much “a pre-Vatican II faith, the emphasis was on saving your soul. It seems strange terminology now – it wasn’t outgoing at all.”
FULL STORY TWO BY TWO: It's all about ‘we time'
Media Release from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference here.