Brother Mike Suchnicki O.F.M. Cap. was my 7th grade catechism teacher. He was the first member of the clergy I really knew on a personal basis since he was with our class 5 days per week throughout the school year.
From Br. Mike (now Fr. Mike), I learned the role that humor, especially self-deprecating humor, can play in making an apparent authority figure approachable. He always told jokes on himself, frequently related to his Eastern European ethnic heritage. (For example, see his t-shirt from a yearbook picture of an intramural volleyball game.)
By readily using humor, the class became more comfortable and receptive to him and the serious religious messages he was sharing. Seeing a religious figure who was actually a real person also awakened in me an early interest in discerning whether I had a religious vocation.
The approachability Br. Mike created through humor led me to embrace a similar style – being willing to poke fun at myself to introduce people to more serious or complex subject matter.
His gift of humor is still a part of my work style, writing, and interpersonal approach. In fact, if you look across my websites, they represent three deep personal themes – strategy, humor, and spirituality. Within the latter two, Br. Mike was a strong early influence, for which I’ll eternally be grateful.