Archdiocese Local

New Scouting committee chair fueled by ‘chronic optimism’

Matt Thomas, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, is the new chairman of the archdiocesan Catholic Committee on Scouting. LEAVEN PHOTO BY KATHRYN WHITE

by Dean Backes
Special to The Leaven

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — While other parents typically discontinue their service to  Scouting once their kids move on, Matt Thomas felt a calling to continue doing his duty to God and his country beyond the participation of his own daughter Faith and son Luke.

Following last year’s Boy Scouts Awards Mass, Thomas volunteered to take over as chairman of the Catholic Committee on Scouting (CCS) in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, allowing interim chairperson Tonya Gast a little room to breathe.

“I’m in a transition period in my adult Scouting career,” Thomas said. “I’m finding ways where I can make a larger impact by not having to participate at the troop level. We want to get the word of Jesus and God into the lives of our Scouts.

“They get it in school. But showing them that it’s not just at school that it’s important, but in other aspects of their lives, will help them understand the importance of God’s love as they progress through the Scouting program and into high school and into college and beyond.”

A marketer, working in graphic design and communications for more than two decades, Thomas followed in his father Matthew’s footsteps by becoming an Eagle Scout as a teenager. Luke and Faith grabbed the baton from their father, earning their Eagle awards as well.

Thomas wedged his foot in the archdiocese’s door by running the CCS’s website before volunteering for his new role and becoming a substitute teacher in the archdiocese last October.

After the first of the year, Thomas took on a full-time teaching position at Holy Trinity School in Lenexa while he continues to earn his teaching certification. According to Gast, Thomas’ background may not have been in teaching, but he is passionate about teaching kids through Scouting.

“Gary [Smith] had a lot of beauty of tradition and how things had been done for years and years,” Gast said of Thomas’ predecessor who retired as chairman. “He was fantastic because he knew it well and led well and he was just very passionate.

“Matt, I feel, is growing in taking what we’ve learned from Gary and bringing in new life and technology to be able to reach kids.”

Thomas, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Shawnee, serves as its technology minister at the 9 a.m. Mass while his wife Jennifer sings in the choir. 

Energetic hardly describes Thomas, said John Swartz, the former chairman of the Committee on Scouting on the Missouri side.

“Chronic optimism is Matt,” said Swartz, who has known Thomas for more than 30 years. “He always has a smile on his face. If you need something, [it’s], ‘What can I do?’ He’s just a good person to know and I was really glad to hear that he had taken over the CCS on the archdiocesan side.”

A passionate traveler, live music enthusiast and “Star Wars” geek, Thomas has little issue staying busy when he does have spare time. If he and his wife aren’t traveling together or with the family, Thomas might be spotted listening to live music at Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City, Missouri, or at Liberty Hall in Lawrence. He’s a fan of bluegrass as well.

And don’t get him started on “Star Wars.”

“I can talk to anybody forever about anything ‘Star Wars,’” Thomas said. “The Comicon conventions are fun to go to. I’ve gone to those with my kids.”

Paired with his Scouting position, the former little league soccer coach is making a major impact on archdiocesan youth through teaching. The technology instructor for grades 2-6 not only teaches coding, typing, digital citizenship and tutorials for Google products like Google Docs, Slides, Drawings and Sheets, he has helped some Holy Trinity seventh and eighth graders with their presentation skills.

Thomas said he taught video production as an elective last quarter and this quarter he is educating his students in graphic design, photography and photos. Next year the school is putting Thomas in charge of a STREAM (science, technology, religion, engineering, art and math) lab.

This latest career path is allowing Thomas to enjoy another one of his passions.

“Right now, I’m interested in learning and growing and becoming a teacher,” Thomas said. “I like doing that. I love learning — learning, growing and expanding my horizons. All of that. I’m a student of life.”

About the author

The Leaven

The Leaven is the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

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