Adelaide McAlpin Pyle, a Baptized Protestant
“She will be saved because she has faith.”
(Most of the information for this first account comes from the English version of the book Mary Pyle, by Bonaventura Massa.7 This work was diligently compiled from written documents and taped oral testimonies, kept on file in the Archives of Padre Pio’s friary in anticipation of the process for Miss Pyle’s Cause for Beatification.)
The wealthy Presbyterian, Adelaide McAlpin Pyle, was the mother of Mary Pyle, a well-known convert to Catholicism who renounced her family fortune in order to spend her life near Padre Pio. The Pyle family was related by marriage to the Rockefellers, and made their fortune in the soap and hotel business. After Adelaide found out that her daughter Mary had chosen to move to southern Italy to learn about God from a saint, curiosity impelled her to travel from her plush New York townhouse to medieval San Giovanni Rotondo, in order to meet this holy man.
In spite of an unpleasant initial encounter, Adelaide eventually became quite friendly with Padre Pio. She made numerous journeys from America, beginning in the mid-1920s, to visit her daughter Mary, and to meet with the Padre. Mary often tried to convince her mother to convert to Catholicism as she herself had done, but Adelaide reportedly said in Padre Pio’s presence, “I would rather allow myself to be burned alive for my religion!” Padre Pio advised Mary not to push her mother to convert: “Let her be! Don’t upset her peace.” 8 However, Mary continued to worry because her mother was not a Catholic, and Padre Pio counseled, “Let’s not confuse her. She will be saved because she has faith.”9
In 1936, Adelaide, who had grown older and was nearing death, made one last trip to San Giovanni Rotondo. As she said good-bye to Padre Pio at the end of this visit, the saintly priest pointed heavenward, saying to the Protestant Adelaide, “I hope we will see each other again soon, but if we don’t see each other here, we will see each other up there.”10 She passed away in the fall of 1937 at the age of seventy-seven.11 Her daughter Mary then became pre-occupied about her mother’s salvation. After dreaming that her mother was in Rome standing in front of the Vatican, she poured out her anxiety to Padre Pio. He replied, “And who told you that your mother could not be saved?” 12
Did Padre Pio receive a revelation that Adelaide Pyle had secretly ‘in pectore” converted to the Catholic Faith? If that were true, he most certainly would have told this to her daughter Mary, who was obviously distraught from worrying over her mother’s salvation. Further, it seems likely that if Adelaide had converted, she would have shared this good news with her convert daughter. It is reasonable to conclude then that Padre Pio believed that this particular person who died outside the Church could be saved. In addition, there is evidence that Padre Pio would have been willing to hear Adelaide’s confession, and grant her sacramental absolution. On one occasion, she had confided to her daughter her great desire to kneel before Padre Pio in his confessional, but she lamented that her inability to speak Italian made this impossible. When Padre Pio heard of this, (apparently it was after her death), he bemoaned, “Oh! If she had only done it! As for the language, I would have taken care of that!”13 *
*Padre Pio had the gift of speaking different languages, without having had a formal education in learning these languages.
Mary Pyle receiving Holy Communion from Padre Pio