May 13, 2016

Longtime advocate leaves legacy of faith, involvement

By John Shaughnessy

Bill SylvesterAs he prepared to honor Bill Sylvester with the St. John Bosco Award, Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) executive director Ed Tinder declared, “There is no individual that comes close to having the influence this man has had over the entire Catholic athletic scene.”

Later, Tinder continued to glow about the 87-year-old Sylvester, adding, “His legacy to this community, for Catholic education, to the CYO and the generation of those following him is set for life.”

Tinder also went into detail about Sylvester’s legacy: how he helped form the foundation of the CYO as a part-time worker in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s; how he was the first athletic director and football coach at Father Thomas Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis; how this former president of the CYO board of directors also coached football at Cathedral High School in Indianapolis and at Purdue University and Butler University.

“I count no less than 17 coaches in the CYO football program at parishes all over the city who can be traced back to the influence of this man,” Tinder noted.

Sylvester accepted the praise with humility. Indeed, when he was interviewed for this story, the first point of pride he mentioned was the legacy of his family to Catholic education.

“I have six children. I was widowed 23 years ago. Between me and my wife and our children, our family has taught at Scecina, Cathedral, Roncalli, Ritter, Chatard, St. Pius, St. Michael and St. Matthew. And two are teaching in Catholic schools outside Indianapolis—one in California and one in Michigan.”

Then he extended the family connection even farther.

“I played in the CYO. My dad coached the Holy Cross School football teams in ’38 and ’39. When I played in ’39, ’40 and ’41, that was the beginning of CYO. It gave me a start. That’s still the good thing about the CYO today. It gives kids a start—a start in life.”

That continuing influence made Sylvester proud to receive the St. John Bosco Award.

“I’m still involved, still going to games and still interested. It’s a prestigious honor, and I’m certainly glad to get it.” †

 

Related story: Seven receive Catholic Youth Organization’s highest honor

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