Mary Pyle "Maria l'Americana" 




   Adelia Maria McAlpin Pyle for more than four decades was a fixture at San Giovanni Rotondo.[1]

Born at her parents’ town house in Manhattan,[2] [3] she was from a wealthy Protestant and socially prominent family.[4]

Birth certificate with no name yet  April 17, 1888;   215 West 45th St. NY,NY        Baptism certificate of Adelia September 15, 1888

Baptized at the Church of the Covenant, a Presbyterian church of which her mother was member.[5] Later she was instructed in the Catholic faith while in Spain by a Jesuit Father. She was conditionally baptized again. The ceremony was performed by a Capuchin friar, and she assumed the baptismal name of Maria.[6]

Maria was fluent in Italian, Spanish and German. In 1912 she met the educator Maria Montessori and become her interpreter. [7]

In 1923 Maria and her friend Rina d’Ergin Caterinici has spent the summer in Capri with Maria Montessori. Rina asked Maria to accompany her to San Giovanni Rotondo. On October 2, 1923, they left Capri, sailed to Naples, took a train to Foggia, and a bus to San Giovanni Rotondo.[8]

  Mary Pyle (standing far right in the picture) with Maria Montessori (far left, with her son), in a Montessori school in New York City, at the Panama Pacific Exposition.

Born only a year after Padre Pio, her origins were in total contrast to Padre Pio’s humble and poor beginnings.[9]

She wrote about the first encounter with Padre Pio: “We just looked at each other at first, then I fell to my knees and said :’Father’. He placed his wounded hand on my head and said: ‘My child, stop travelling around. Stay here.”[10]

Mary returned briefly to Montessori, and after accompanying her to Holland and England, she went back to Padre Pio with Montessori. When they were about to leave she cried out: “I can’t. I feel paralyzed, as though someone had nailed my feet to the ground.” So Montessori took the bus for Rome alone, and had Mary’s possessions sent to her.[11] The two women never again met or spoke.[12]


Maria went to San Giovanni Rotondo armed with six languages, a musical education and a great love of music, years of study in the best of American private schools, well-travelled, accustomed from childhood to every luxury.[13]

She joined the Third Order of St. Francis in a ceremony led by Padre Pio on September 6, 1925.[14]  She obtained permission to wear the habit of the Order.[15] She even slept in her habit.”[16]


At first she rented a room with a family named Vinciguerra, about two miles down the road from the convent.[17] [18]

She went to the friary each morning for Mass and stay there during the day with other women devotees of Padre Pio, having bag lunch at noon, sitting on a small stone wall that surrounded an elm tree.[19]  

  Pietruccio Cugino, blind since chilhood,  with Padre Pio.

Frequently Mary shared her lunch under the elm tree with Pietruccio, the child of a poor local family who would spend his day in the convent and visiting with Padre Pio. Later Pietruccio, still a young age got retinitis pigmentosa and became blind. He began to lose his sight when he was twelve. By teenage he was totally blind. Sometimes Mary sent question and got answers from Padre Pio through Pietruccio. [20]

The people in town called her “Maria l’Americana”, ‘Mary the American’, at first with suspicion, but later, with reverence and affection.[21]

When Maria’s brother, David, a successful attorney, learned of her whereabouts, he came to see her. He was horrified that she was betraying her social class by living in what he considered an unutterable squalor. He reported it to Adelaide, their mother.[22]

Adelaide came to San Giovanni Rotondo, became fast friends with Padre Pio, and visited frequently from Rome, where she had an apartment. She reinstated her daughter’s allowance, sending her tremendous sums of money for that time and place.[23] Maria was able to construct a three story house near the convent. People called it the pink castle.[24] When the building was completed, around 1927, Padre Pio, who could not walk well on his wounded feet, rode a donkey down the hill in order to bless it. [25]


      Outside of Mary Pyle's villa, with the original mail box of he Italian mail.




      Pictures of the inside of Mary Pile's home in San Giovanni Rotondo.


On the ground floor of the house was a large room which served all purposes. There was a long refectory table, and anyone who wandered in was always welcome to share a simple meal. At this table she sat to write letters for the poor illiterate women of San Giovanni Rotondo, she played tombola and other games with the youngsters who came up on foot from the town two miles below, to be catechized as well as entertained. Also, and most frequently of all, girls went there to practice singing and learn hymns, grouper around the small harmonium that formed part of the furnishing. [26]

No one who knocked on her door for assistance was ever turned away. Mary had a large brown book were some of the visitors wrote their names. Many visitor of every class, from Europe and America, passed by, including famous people.[27] During the WWII many American GI’s were recipients of her hospitality.[28] In her home she made hosts for the Masses and held choir practices. [29]


Adelaide went back frequently to San Giovanni Rotondo. Maria was concerned that she did not convert from Baptism to Catholicism. Padre Pio said: “Let her be. Don’t upset her peace. She will be saved because she has faith.”[30]

On the last Adelaide’s visit to Padre Pio, shortly before she died, he said: “Let’s hope we meet again, but if we don’t see each other here, we will see each other up there.”[31]

On day Maria Pyle asked Padre Pio: “Can I build a convent in Pietrelcina?” Padre Pio: “Do it at once and let it be dedicated to the Holy Family.”

  Padre Pio was in Via Gregaria with don Salvatore Pannullo whe he said the that one day a church and convent would be built there.

With the help of her mother, Maria paid for the construction not only of the convent, but also of a seminary in Pietrelcina. The building was erected on the spot indicated by Archpriest Pannullo, were Padre Pio fifteen years earlier had indicated that a convent would rise. [32]




 The actual work on the convent in Pietrelcina began in 1926. The first stones were brought by the enthusiasts townspeople, removed from the crumbling old chapel known as Purgatory church. In only one day all the stones were transported to the new site and a mound of stones several yards high loomed in the twilight. As evening fell, another portent appeared. A great light, in the form of an immense cross was seen over the pile of stones. It gradually rose up from the top of the pile and appeared over Pietrelcina. The cross was seen for about half an hour, as it slowly climbed over the sky and eventually disappeared.[33]

Maria moved to Pietrelcina during the construction.[34]

  Painting of Mary Pyle in the sacristy of the church. The sign above the painting is in gratitude for her extreme generosity.

In a little over two years the convent was completed, but due to many difficulties, it would be another twenty years before it would actually be occupied by the Capuchins.[35] Only in April 1947 the first Capuchins arrived to the convent.[36]

Painting of Mary Pyle in the Capuchin convent in Foggia.

Construction of the adjoining Holy Family church began in 1928. During the construction the problem of lack of water came up. Padre Pio was informed, and described a location were the laborers should dig. To everyone’s amazement a large spring was found there. So the construction continued.[37] [38]

Stained window (made in Vietri) in the Holy Family church depicting Mary Pyle donating the church to Padre Pio.

In early December 1928, on one of her return trips to San Giovanni Rotondo from Pietrelcina, Maria Pyle had been accompanied by Padre Pio’s mother Giuseppa, as she wanted spend Christmas with her son. She stayed at Maria’s home. When Giuseppa met Padre Pio she kissed his hand about ten times, for each of her family members. When she tried to kiss his hand for herself, Padre Pio refused, saying: “Never! The son should kiss the hand of the mother, not the mother the hand of the son.”[39]

  Mamma Peppa with her niece Pina.

On Christmas Giuseppa “Mamma Peppa” went to the midnight Mass. Back to Maris’s home she came down with high fever and double pneumonia. Padre Pio came many times to comfort her, mounted on a mule on the narrow, rocky, dusty path leading from the convent to Maria’s house.[40] Padre Pio was asked to pray for her recovery. He replied: “God’s will be done.” Padre Pio administered the last rites, and she died peacefully on January 3, 1929.[41]

Maria Pile sent a telegram to her mother Adelaide announcing the death of Padre Pio’s mother. Adelaide replied that Padre Pio had visited her recently in bilocation. Maria asked Padre Pio if that was true. Padre Pio replied: “I always go there.”[42]



In 1937 Padre Pio’s father, Grazio, had moved to San Giovanni Rotondo, in the home of Maria Pyle. On Good Friday 1939 Grazio told Maria that as a form of devotion the meal had to consist of one plate of “pasta e fagioli” and a glass of water, and had to be eaten on their knees. There were several guests that day, and all were moved, and obliged. Grazio said that it was an order from Padre Pio. The episode was reported to Padre Pio and he said that he had not said anything. However Padre Pio told his father: “Daddy, you did very well.”[43]

At Maria’s home Zi’ Grazio was frequently at the center of conversation, recalling episodes of the life in Pietrelcina of Francesco, the future Padre Pio.

  In the last few months of life Zi’ Grazio was not able to walk to church to be at Padre Pio’s Mass, and Maria provided a mule to take him there.

   Zi’ Grazio receiving Communion from his son.

   When Zi’ Grazio fell ill, Padre Pio went to visit him every day at Maria’s home. He died on October 7, 1946, comforted by his son at bedside.[44]


Later in 1941 America and Italy were at war. Mary Pyle had an American passport. She was summoned to Rome and was accompanied in the trip to the Ministry of Internal Affairs by Padre Emilio da Matrice who could vouch for her character. Instead of being incarcerated, Mary was sentenced to “house arrest” at the home of Padre Pio’s parents. She reached Pietrelcina on December 27, 1941.

  On the right, arched entry to maternal home. A man stands on top of the stairs leading to Michele's home. It was not inhabited by other people when Mary stayed in Pietrelcina, occupying a room on the second floor.


Mary stayed in Pietrelcina until October 3, 1943, when, with the Allied troops moving north the Italian peninsula, the American soldiers reached Pietrelcina. A few days later, she started the trip back to San Giovanni Rotondo with the help of Davide Aucone. It took them several days, hoisting her belongings into a farm wagon, traveling through roads and bridges bombed out. It was a long trek back to San Giovanni Rotondo.[45]


Mary receiving Communion from Padre Pio



                 Dining room.

In 1943-5 many GI’s went to San Giovanni Rotondo to meet Padre Pio. All of them would look for the “pink castle’, the home of Mary Pile. She gave them “generous hospitality, preparing meals for them, around her long kitchen table, were twenty people could sit comfortably”, talked to them about “the holy man on the mountain”, and then introduced them to Padre Pio, translated for them, and gave them feedback.




 Several of the GI’s gave written recollection of their visits to San Giovanni Rotondo. Joe De Sanctis, Bob Mohs, Joe Revelas, Ray Ewens, with the 15th Army Air Force in Cerignola. Eugene McMahon, Tony Afflitto, Carl Amato, Pete Mier of the 463 Bomb Group. Joe Haines, who was with the 416 Bomb Group. Robert Simmons, Ed Kearns and Rudy Tucci, who were with the 99th Bomb Group. Leo Fannings and Joe Astarita stationed in Cerignola. John McKenna, Joe Peluso, Ronald McMillan, Bob Coble, Joe Peterson and many others. Their stories can be read in the books of Frank Rega[46] and Bernard Ruffin,[47] and on the website in San Diego.

It was Padre Pio who asked Maria to learn to play the old reed organ in the church.[48]  Maria organized a choir of local ladies which she accompanied as they sung at the Mass services and at the afternoon benediction.[49] Padre Pio and the congregation were extremely pleased with the added decorum provided by the sound of the organ and the choir.[50] Mary continued to play the organ until Elena Bandini, an accomplished organist, arrived in San Giovanni Rotondo and replaced her. [51]


Maria assisted the convent with the foreign correspondence, thought catechism to local children, and never failed to supply food and money to the sick and needy.[52] [53]


Clarice Bruno: “I think her really great work was the moral help, encouragement, and enlightenment she brought into the lives of so many persons in moments of great darkness, misery, and anguish of all kinds, putting them in contact with Padre Pio. I spent years in Mary’s Franciscan house, or in her little garden, listening to her witty a humorous conversation. She would tell anecdote after anecdote.”[54]

John McCaffery: “She trained the village girls in womanly arts and crafts, and in womanly dignity. She also helped in their formal education. I never met anyone who was not impressed by the blend of sweetness and strength that went to make her personality.”[55]

Over the years she financed the seminary studies of at least ten priests. [56]



Padre Pio had once told Mary that she would be the first to die and that he would follow soon after.[57]

Maria died in Casa Sollievo on April 25, 1968. Padre Alessio asked Padre Pio were she was, and he replied that she was in Purgatory. Later Mary appeared in a dream to one of her friends and told her that she had entered in Heaven on May 5. Padre Pio, informed about the dream replied: “She was always a good religious, and the Lord knows how to give a just reward to those who deserve it.”[58]

  Mary Pyle and Padre Pio

 “Mary had a life filled with prayer and penance, simplicity and perseverance. She helped thousands of people in any kind of tribulation.[59]

Maria “Mary” Pyle rests in the cemetery of San Giovanni Rotondo, in the chapel of the Capuchin friars, with  Zi’ Grazio and Mamma Peppa.

   Currently, part of Mary Pyle's home houses a Capuchin vocational center.


A mosaic in the crypt of the new San Pio church depicts Mary Pyle greeting Padre Pio ad the door of Heaven.

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Capuano, P. (2012). Con p. Pio: come in una fiaba. Foggia: Grafiche Grilli.

Clarice, B. (1970). Roads to Padre Pio. Roma: Citta' Nuova.

Duchess Suzanne, o. S. (1983). Magic of a Mistic. Stories of Padre Pio. New York: Clarkson N. Potter.

Gaudiose, D. M. (1974). Prophet of the people. A biography of Padre Pio. New York: Alba House.

McCaffery, J. (1978). Tales of Padre Pio. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel.

Rega, F. M. (2005). Padre Pio and America. Rockford: TAN books.

Ruffin, C. B. (1991). Padre Pio: the true story. Huntington, Indiana: Our Sunday Visitor, Inc.




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[1] Ruf91, 209-10

[2] Rof91, 210

[3] Reg05, 33

[4] Bru70, 75

[5] Ruf91, 210

[6] Reg05, 37

[7] Ruf91, 212

[8] Ruf91, 213

[9] Reg05, 33

[10] Ruf91, 214

[11] Reg05, 69

[12] Ruf91, 214

[13] Bru70, 75

[14] Gau73, 89

[15] Ruf 91,214

[16] Reg05, 77

[17] Ruf91, 214

[18] Reg05, 70

[19] Reg05, 70

[20] Duc83, 81

[21] Ruf91, 214-5

[22] Ruf91, 215

[23] Ruf91, 515

[24] Ruf91, 215

[25] Reg05, 74

[26] Bru70, 76

[27] Gau73, 90

[28] Reg95, 74

[29] Reg05, 75

[30] Ruf 91, 215

[31] Reg05, 73

[32] Ruf91, 216

[33] Reg05, 92

[34] Reg95, 92

[35] Reg95, 92

[36] Reg95, 93

[37] Ruf91, 217

[38] Reg95, 94

[39] Reg95, 95

[40] Bru70, 76-7

[41] Reg05, 94-6

[42] Reg95, 97

[43] Cap12, 115-6

[44] Cap12, 117

[45] Reg05, 114-7

[46] Reg95

[47] Ruf91

[48] Retg05, 77

[49] Gau73, 89-90

[50] Reg05, 78

[51] Reg05, 78

[52] Ruf91, 215

[53] Gau73, 89

[54] Bru70, 77

[55] McC78, 81-2

[56] Ruf91, 216 

[57] Reg05, 243

[58] Reg05, 245-7

[59] Bru70, 78


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