“Mary Pyle” was born Adelia Pyle on the 17th April 1888 in Morristown, New Jersey. The daughter of James Tolman Pyle and Adeline McAlpin. Her family was wealthy and were faithful Presbyterians so Adelia grew up in a religious atmosphere. She attended mainly private schools and learned to speak fluent Spanish, Italian, French and German. She also studied music, singing and dance, all of which she enjoyed. Adelia enjoyed an active social and, on one occasion after a severe fall horse riding, she was heard to say: “This is in reparation for all the dancing I’ve done.”
During her adolescent years Mary often travelled to Europe and, on one of these occasions, she met Maria Montessori, the educationalist who developed the Montessori method of teaching . This resulted in Maria Montessori asking Mary if she would like to travel with her and act as her interpreter. During her travels, she became interested in the Catholic faith and was Baptized into the Catholic church by Jesuits while in Spain in 1913, aged 25. Her mother, on hearing the news, was horrified and in Mary’s own words: “When she was making her will, she excluded me as if I were not her daughter.”
Adelia said she first heard of Padre Pio and his stigmata in 1921 but it was 1923 before she decided to go and see him for herself. We do not know much about that first meeting except what Mary herself said later: “We looked at one another only. Then, I fell on my knees and said: ‘Padre’. He put his wounded hands on my head and said to me: ‘My daughter, do not travel anymore. Stay here.'”
She left San Giovanni Rotondo but returned at a later date and entered the Franciscan Third Order. In a simple ceremony she took the new name of Mary (Maria) and received the brown habit of the Third Order from the hands of Padre Pio himself. Mary then built herself a villa close to the Friary; furnished it in a franciscan manner and settled down under the spiritual direction of Padre Pio.
Mary’s mother came to terms with Mary’s conversion to Catholicism and visited her in San Giovanni Rotondo, as did her brothers.
Mary performed acts of charity and had built in Pietrelcina both the convent, the seminary and the Church of the Sacra Famiglia (The Holy Family). Thus she fulfilled the wishes of the inhabitants of Pietrelcina and of Padre Pio who had told her to build it: “….soon, and dedicate it to the Sacra Famiglia”. The Convent rose up in the place where a young Padre Pio had prophesised, years before, that a convent would be built, for the sons of Francis. During the building work Mary Pyle stayed at Pietrelcina in the same house in Via Santa Maria degli Angeli where Padre Pio had lived from 1910 to 1916.
Mary began to receive English-speaking visitors to her home and thus began a lively correspondence between the spiritual children of Padre Pio. In many of her letters, she spoke of the importance Guardian Angels.
Mary always asked those who wrote to her to pray to their Guardian Angel and this may well have been encouraged by Padre Pio himself. She was one of the few women with whom he would stop and chat to for a while.
Not only was she close to her beloved Padre Pio, but she also took care of his parents, in her villa, as they got older.
In December 1929, Mary took Mamma Peppa and “zì” Grazio to San Giovanni Rotondo so that the two old peasants could be closer to their son and cared for them, in her home, until they died.
The memory of Mary remains in the hearts of those who saw her charity and of those pilgrims and faithful who came to the holy places connected with the “Friar of Pietrelcina”.