Fr Luke (Antonio) Pirone OFM was born in the Italian city of Naples and began his novitiate for the Order of Friars Minor for the Province of St Mary of Graces (Benevento) on the feast of St Francis of Assisi, October 4 1952.
He professed temporary vows one year later and professed solemn vows on March 27 1957. He was ordained a priest on June 11 1960 and was one of the first priests from his province in Italy to be sent overseas as a missionary.
After travelling to England to study English, he departed for South Korea in 1962 working first in the Diocese of Pusan in the city of Jinu and then in Seoul where he was the Director of the Myongdo Language Institute for the formation of Catholic and Protestant missionaries in Korea. He learnt the Korean language which enabled him to translate some books into Korean and assist with the translation of the Mass and other liturgical books into Korean. Fr Luke was very involved with other areas of education in Korea as both chaplain at Yonsei University and as a Professor of Italian at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies.
In 1971 he arrived in Australia in response to the need for Italian-speaking priests to minister to the large Italian community now settled in Australia. Fr Ambrose Ryan, the then Franciscan Provincial Minister, clearly identified a need for such chaplaincy and Coadjutor Archbishop Gleeson put a strong case for an Italian friar to come to Australia saying, “This is an answer to our prayer”.
Fr Luke worked as assistant priest in Albert Park, Paddington, Barossa (Administrator) and finally Hectorville.
Ministry to the Italian people who had migrated to Australia required Italian priests who understood not just the language, but also the culture and spirituality of the Italian people. This often saw Fr Luke in high demand for preaching missions, retreats and various ‘feste’ around Adelaide as well as baptisms, weddings and funerals. He was a gifted preacher.
This outreach also involved being regularly interviewed for local Italian media in regard to various religious and social issues. His studies in Sociology from St Francis Xavier University in Canada saw him involved in many multicultural initiatives on a national and State level, such as the Multicultural Taskforce and Ethnic Community Council.
As assistant priest, he dedicated himself to the pastoral care of all the people in the parishes he was appointed which included the Korean Community in Sydney and Adelaide. For a period of time in Adelaide, he regularly offered Mass and catechesis for the Korean community at St Mark’s Church, Magill.
While he slowed down after his retirement in 2011 to St Hilarion’s Aged Care in Fulham, he continued to provide for the pastoral care of the residents as well as providing spiritual direction to clergy, religious and lay faithful who sought his wise counsel.
Fr Luke died at Queen Elizabeth Hospital surrounded by clergy, religious and friends. He was 83 years old and had been a Franciscan friar for 64 years and a priest for 57 years.
A vigil Mass was celebrated at Annunciation Church, Hectorville, on October 9, led by the Provincial Minister, Fr Philip Miscamble OFM, followed by the funeral Mass celebrated by Archbishop Wilson on October 10. He was laid to rest in the Catholic Clergy section of Centennial Park Cemetery.