by Moira Cullings
OVERLAND PARK — The spirit of Catholicism was always alive inside Sean Wilde; he just didn’t know it yet.
With a knack for generosity and a love for discipline, Wilde had all the pieces of a Christ-like life, save one: the Catholic faith.
Now Scoutmaster of Boy Scout Troop 251 at Church of the Holy Cross in Overland Park and a practicing Catholic, finding that missing piece was quite a journey.
“I was born into an Episcopal family, baptized by an Episcopal bishop and my dad became an Episcopal deacon,” said Wilde, who explained that he was actively involved in the church growing up.
His father occasionally attended Catholic Mass, and Wilde would tag along. This familiarity would come into play years later, when he began to question his Episcopalian beliefs.
“[Episcopalian] leaders were making decisions that I felt were contrary to my own convictions,” he said.
At the same time, Wilde was heavily involved with Troop 251 at Holy Cross. He had been working with the troop since 2002, a few years after he left Miller School of Albemarle, a military school in Virginia.
In his childhood, Wilde had only been a Cub Scout for a little over two years, but had acquired a set of values through life experiences that coincided with the Catholic Church, as well as the Scouts.
“There were a lot of things — like the outdoor skills, the leadership and the comradery, and everything else — that were basically the same in military school,” said Wilde.
After taking a break from Troop 251 to attend Kansas State University, Wilde returned to the troop and picked up where he left off. He even began to attend Mass every so often at Holy Cross.
“I couldn’t put a date on it,” he said, “but I just remember sitting there one day after everybody was going to Communion, and I just thought, ‘I wonder what the process would be like to become Catholic.’”
Terry Dressman, who had worked alongside Wilde and his troop for several years, recalled what happened next.
“He approached me and said, ‘You know, Terry, I really like what you’re doing with your church, and I’d like to become Catholic,’” said Dressman.
“I was really attracted to Catholicism,” said Wilde, “because I felt that it required more spiritual discipline,” a quality he had grown to admire.
“Being responsible for your sins,” he said, is part of that discipline. “You’re expected to do confession once a quarter. That really doesn’t exist in the Episcopal Church.”
Wilde got in touch with Bob Bacic, the parish’s RCIA director. And in Easter of 2011, he was received into the Catholic Church. Just one year later, he was named Troop 251 scoutmaster.
Wilde’s experience with two religions has opened the doors to a world of understanding, not only in regard to Catholic teaching, but also in relation to the dynamic of his troop, most of which is not Catholic.
Dressman, who was Wilde’s RCIA sponsor, has witnessed the impact Wilde’s unique spirit has on the boys.
“Once a year, the Boy Scouts have a Mass, and all the boys come, whether they’re Catholic or non-Catholic,” said Dressman. “They come and sit in the pew, and they help [at] that one Mass of the year.
“I think it’s an extremely important image to see this man as part of the community of the church that he’s attached to. It, to me, is just another example of how a gentleman can be a great example for young people who are . . . maybe not grounded in faith.”
Troop 251 continues to flourish. The Scouts recently held their annual cinnamon roll fundraiser, at which they baked 165 dozen rolls, sold 125 and delivered the rest to Johnson County Interfaith Hospitality Network, Catholic Charities in Overland Park and Shawnee food pantry.
Holy Cross pastor Father Mike Stubbs, who designates projects for boys seeking to earn an Eagle Scout honor, hopes their experience in Scouting is giving the boys the opportunity to learn to work with one another, and “to be able to do things — not just for themselves, but for others.”
Troop 251 is in good hands under Wilde’s watchful eye, said Dressman.
“He’s able to really be patient with them and teach them the whole concept of leadership and how to take charge of things,” he said.
“I would say that he’s got that disposition that you need in order to deal with young people who are in a very formative stage in their life,” he added.
Wilde’s troop has had a powerful influence on his own life as well. Not only did it draw him to the Catholic faith, but it continues to help him lead a fruitful life.
“Cultivating a relationship with the Scouts,” he said, “kind of helps me believe I’m on the right path.”