Monsignor Plunkett was pastor at Elmhurst’s Immaculate Conception parish when I attended its kindergarten, grammar and high schools so I got to see him during those 13 years, more often than any other man of authority, except Dad.
This may account for his shaping my view of male leaders. Those I admire today share some his traits:
1. When still, he laced his fingers and rested them on his tummy, which was ample. Men who do this are ready to listen.
2. When walking, he gripped one wrist behind his back with the other wrist and moved forward with purpose, like a boat. Men who do this are going places.
3. He repeated one phrase so often, he must have known the middle school kids would imitate him to make each other laugh, which they did. But he said it anyway: “We want to educate the whole man.” Men who repeat one phrase with deep conviction and affection no matter what anybody else thinks, get things done…no matter what anybody else thinks.
4. He sought ways to be around the students, who, trust me, were not always fun to be around. He personally delivered report cards two times each year to about 26 classrooms, each with about 50 students (yup, 50). That’s about 2,600 times annually he bent down, shook a chubby-grubby hand and said something such as “Ah, Billy’s deportment is improving, I see. Very good, Billy.” Men who enjoy children achieve much.
5. He liked being included. I conclude this because he was always smiling in photos with the football team, with other parish priests, with the ladies who laundered the altar linens, with the school band. Maybe he just liked having his picture taken, but I think men who smile are trustworthy.
6. He did not butt in. I never saw him interrupt anyone, even when someone was going on and on and not saying anything. Even a child. Men who don’t butt in foster loyalty.
7. He held his own counsel. I never saw Monsignor Plunkett display attention-getting emotion. No grimaces. No thundering. No puffy chest thumping. Men who hold their own counsel are manly. They command. They lead.