Worldly possessions meant nothing to the Rev. Pat Malone — with two notable exceptions.
One was a steel crucifix forged for him out of the smoldering ruins of Sept. 11 by his fellow recovery workers. The other was a big white pickup truck he drove to remote encampments in the Dominican Republic to say mass, perform sacraments, do odd jobs and arrange medical care for the poorest of the poor.
In his last assignment as a Jesuit priest — chosen for him because of his dire health challenges — Malone, who was raised in West St. Paul and was pastor at St. Luke’s Catholic Parish in St. Paul, did gospel readings from memory in churches around Omaha. Despite chronic lung and heart difficulties, he never ceased to volunteer for community service.
“He was a poetic, immediate preacher who drew from his own experience of suffering,” said Dr. Suzanne Braddock of Omaha, a family friend. “There wasn’t anything he didn’t understand about the human heart. He was a man of incredible devotion.’’
Malone died July 22 in Omaha after a 27-year fight against leukemia and related health problems. He was 55.
Lisa Kelly, another friend, said he would have spent his entire life serving marginalized people around the world if his Jesuit superiors would have let him. “He walked with the poor,’’ Kelly said. “He was the people’s priest.’’
In the Twin Cities, Malone was president of his graduating class at West St. Paul’s Archbishop Brady High School in 1977. He earned an economics degree from the University of St. Thomas and served as director of the St. Stephen’s homeless shelter in Minneapolis in the 1980s. His first assignment as an ordained Jesuit was at St. Luke’s from 2001 to 2006. He also served as campus minister at Macalester College in St. Paul.
His brother John Malone, of Long Lake, said Pat experienced a personal transformation in famine-stricken African nation of Mali during a two-year Peace Corps stint after graduating from St. Thomas. His leukemia diagnosis came in 1987 during routine inoculations he was receiving to prepare for his next quest — a volunteer mission to Zaire.
John Malone said a bone-marrow transplant and two subsequent stem-cell transplants overlapped decades of commitment by his brother to go “anywhere in the world where people needed help.’’
It was on a goodwill trip to Guatemala with Maryknoll missionaries when he was steered toward the priesthood. He joined the Jesuit order in 1992 and was ordained in 2001.
Along the way he earned a double MBA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison; a bachelor’s degree in French from the University of Dakar, Senegal, and a master’s in divinity from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif.
After the World Trade Center was attacked in 2001, Malone assisted recovery workers. He arrived in New York City on New Year’s Eve and received the fire chief’s permission to conduct a mass. By 11:30 p.m., a crowd of cold and tired diggers of all faiths was there for a service Malone held in the rubble.
“The homily was nothing more than people calling out the names of the dead,’’ Malone later wrote. “We prayed, sang and … got on bended knee. It was the most paschal [life through dying] event that I have ever experienced.’’
Kelly said the steel crucifix that workers gave him after a month of service went everywhere with Malone and probably will be buried with him Monday in Omaha, where he was pastor at St. John’s Parish on the campus of Creighton University. A Minnesota memorial service is set for Aug. 2 at St. Joseph’s in West St. Paul.
In addition to John, Malone is survived by another brother, Robert of St. Paul, and two sisters, Mary Malone of Shoreview and Judy Bright of Little Rock, Ark.