Local Religious life

Father Pflumm remembered for his ability to connect with people

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Father Robert Brown Pflumm reminded more than one of his fellow priests of the old saying, “He never met a stranger.”

“He had a very outgoing personality and a love of people,” said Father Jerry Volz, pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Lawrence.

And throughout his priestly ministry, Father Pflumm was also known for his ability to connect with parishioners.

“One of Father Bob’s great-nieces used to run to him and call him ‘MY Father Bob,’ especially when she saw other kids hugging him,” said Margaret Kelly, a niece. “Many people felt as if he was ‘their Father Bob’ because he had a special gift of making everyone he met feel special and loved.”

Father Pflumm, 90, died of pneumonia on Oct. 12 at Overland Park Regional Medical Center. He was a resident of Santa Marta retirement community in Olathe.

He was born in Shawnee on Dec. 16, 1929, one of the four children of Louis and Margaret (Hill) Pflumm. He attended St. Joseph Grade School, Shawnee; Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Missouri; and Rockhurst College in Kansas City, Missouri, where he received a bachelor’s in science in 1951.

His was considered a “late” vocation at the time.

“Father Bob worked in the family business for a few years after graduating from Rockhurst. . . . However, in the back of his mind, he always felt a call from God to the priesthood,” said  Kelly.

After studying at St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, he was ordained a priest at age 30 on June 4, 1960, by Archbishop Edward J. Hunkeler at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Kansas City, Kansas.

Immediately after ordination he was assigned as associate pastor at Christ the King Parish in Kansas City, Kansas. Father Pflumm served several pastoral assignments, retiring twice — the first time in 2000, and the second in 2010.

Father Volz and Father Pflumm were in the same prayer group for many years.

“He was a cherished friend, loyal and trustworthy, someone I could always depend on to care for me and other people,” said Father Volz.

Father Pflumm’s advice to him was “Just love the people of God,” and “God is merciful.”

Father Bill Porter, pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Roeland Park, loved Father Pflumm’s dry wit and sense of humor. Father Pflumm helped him when he founded St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood.

“He was a great preacher,” said Father Porter. “He could talk about Scripture and hit the heart of the matter. He was very pastoral when he preached, and I think he touched people’s hearts. He was very much a people person. He was a very good organizer and he started Holy Spirit Parish in Overland Park.”

Father Mitchel Zimmerman, chaplain and director of the St. Lawrence Catholic Campus Center at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, liked Father Pflumm’s pastoral style.

“People loved his homilies and Masses,” said Father Zimmerman. “I think it was because he was so personal and direct. . . . He didn’t take himself too seriously. He didn’t fret over small things. He loved the church and the faith. Nothing for him was labored or complicated. He made the priesthood accessible and attractive.”

Father Ken Kelly, pastor of St. Pius X Parish in Mission, remembers Father Pflumm as an effective administrator and hard worker.

“He was always good with finances,” said Father Kelly. “Whatever parish he took over was well run and never had problems with finances so long as he was on duty.”

Father Pflumm was preceded in death by his mother and father, and his brother Joseph. He is survived by his sisters Janet Lillie and Jane Kelly, sister- in-law Doris Pflumm, several nieces and nephews, as well as grand-nieces and nephews.

His funeral Mass was celebrated on Oct. 16 at St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee. He was buried at St. Joseph Cemetery in Shawnee.

Memorials may be sent to the priest retirement fund at the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, 12615 Parallel Pkwy., Kansas City, KS 66109.

Funeral arrangements were by Porter Funeral Home in Lenexa.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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