Ursuline Sister Alfreda Malone knew from the fifth grade on that she would someday become a woman religious. It was the “when” that was in question.
From 1942-48, the woman born Crystal Malone in the tiny community of St. Joseph in Marion County, Ky., worked as the secretary for the superintendent of schools in Marion County. When she got off work in the evening, she routinely stopped in St. Augustine Church in nearby Lebanon on her way home.
“I so loved the quietness, I would sit and pray,” she said. “I stayed until 6 o’clock, that’s when the boy came to ring the Angelus bell and lock the church. There was a Sacred Heart in the window and it was pointing up. That told me, ‘You should be in the convent.’ I said, ‘I’m coming, just not yet.’”
Young Crystal, born the fourth of 11 children, was taught throughout elementary and high school by Ursuline Sisters, even though all her schools were public schools. She loved all her teachers, but it was her fifth grade teacher at St. Joseph School who she credits with lighting the fire for her vocation.
“Sister Mary Leona Willett was an excellent teacher,” Sister Alfreda said. “She made classes enjoyable, and I wanted to learn. When she talked about the saints, I’d read every book I could, especially those about Saint Theresa the ‘Little Flower’ and her ‘little way.’ I wanted to be like her and Sister Leona.”
The Catholic faith was very important in the Malone home, and the children studied the catechism at night before they did their other lessons, she said.
“The sisters had the rosary, I just loved the rosary,” she said. “When we heard about Our Lady of Fatima, we had first Saturday devotions, and I’d never miss them.”
When she attended St. Charles High School in St. Mary, Ky., from 1938-42, it was her teacher and principal, Sister Gonzaga Cotter, who impressed her.
“Her humility inspired me more than anything,” Sister Alfreda said. “She’d see something that needed to be done and she’d go do it. Sister Gonzaga was very understanding.”
After graduating from high school, she attended St. Helena’s Business College in Louisville. In October, 1942, Hugh C. Spalding, the superintendent of the Marion County Schools, asked her to be his secretary/bookkeeper. She wanted to complete her shorthand course, but when she was told she wouldn’t need it, she accepted the job. She worked Mondays through Saturdays.
“I liked my job, but by 1948, the desire for religious life was growing stronger,” she said. “During vocations month in March, I felt the Holy Spirit say, ‘It’s time.’ My mother, pastor and I drove to Mount Saint Joseph and I met the mother superior to apply for entrance.”
She planned to enter the convent in September 1948, but in June her mother had a cerebral hemorrhage and was in the hospital until August.
“I decided to stay home with the family and put off going to the convent until later,” Sister Alfreda said. The next summer her mother told her she should go to the convent because it was her life to lead. She entered Sept. 8, 1949, and received the habit and black veil Aug. 14, 1950, making this her 65th year as a sister.
Her family was at first against her joining the Ursulines, who at the time could not come visit their families. Communities closer to home did allow visitation, including the Sisters of Charity, Sisters of Loretto and the Dominican Sisters.
“I said ‘the Ursulines have taught me all my life, that’s where I’m going,’” Sister Alfreda said. Once the Ursulines allowed their Sisters to visit family, the Malones were happy with her decision.
Women joining the community could submit three names at their investment. Crystal considered Sister Mary Fatima, but wanted to honor her parents, Alfred and Mary Abigail, so she chose Mary Alfreda.
Sister Alfreda was a teacher at St. Bartholomew School, Louisville (1952-55), then was teacher and principal at Peonia Public School in Grayson County, Ky., from 1955-58. She was commissioned to St. Thomas More School in Paducah, Ky., as principal and teacher from 1958-64, then spent one year at St. Pius X School in Owensboro.
She spent eight years as the secretary for the Ursuline leadership Council, and served two stints as registrar at Brescia College (now University). She thought she would enter parish ministry after leaving Brescia in 1990, but instead her brother, who owns J.C. Malone Associates in Louisville, an employment agency, asked her to help him. She spent from 1990-2009 working as an assistant in the office, while also spending a few years taking care of her sister in Hodgenville until her death.
“I just throw myself into whatever I’m doing,” she said.
She came home to the Motherhouse in 2009 and began working in the archives in 2010 with a variety of duties. These days she works half-days in the archives doing “whatever needs to be done,” she said.
Sister Alfreda said she’s very happy she chose to become an Ursuline Sister. And she still maintains her devotion to the rosary.
“I thank God daily for His great love in choosing me to be one of His helpers, to bring His word to many children and adults during my days,” Sister Alfreda said. “That He chose me to be an Ursuline from my early childhood seems to me to be a very special favor from God. Dear God, for all you have done for me, I thank you and I love you.”