||Caregiver Terri Huchison, center, poses for a photo with Joni Prough and Mary Fischer, all from Stoughton, during the Apostolate to the Handicapped’s Christmas Party at Monroe High School December 5. (Catholic Herald photo/Jo Boyce) For more pictures of the Apostolate Christmas Party click here.
MONROE -- The annual Apostolate to the Handicapped Christmas Party, held this year December 5 at Monroe High School, is always a joyous event.
It is anticipated by many for what it is on a fundamental level: a party — a chance for hundreds of people from the Madison Diocese, both handicapped and those who assist them, to re-connect personally with others they may see only two or three times a year.
Friendships are formed, renewed, and enjoyed. The holiday spirit is augmented by a decorated space and tables, with music and even dancing for the uninhibited, and the sharing of a hot meal and beverages served by cheerful volunteers.
However, these obvious signs are actually just trimmings to what is truly the heart of the “party”: the Mass, with its Scripture readings and related message delivered personally by the bishop in his homily. Added to that is the physical presence and personal greetings offered by Msgr. Thomas Campion following Mass, which complements the bishop’s words.
Forty-three years of service
Because Monsignor Campion has directed the Apostolate to the Handicapped for so long, 43 years, his tenure is duly noted each year and gratitude to him is expressed verbally by many and on a displayed banner. In acknowledging these tributes, Monsignor Campion unfailingly conveys his true feelings in words to this effect: “The Apostolate’s mission and this day of coming together are not about me, it’s about you. You, who have the courage to face daily the challenges and hardships in your lives. And you, the families and friends of those in need who ease your burden, and the many volunteers and agencies who have made today possible. You are my heroes and I thank you.”
Depending on their schedules, the Mass at the Christmas gathering has been celebrated in recent years by Bishop Robert C. Morlino, bishop of the Diocese of Madison, Bishop William H. Bullock, bishop emeritus, or Bishop George O. Wirz, retired auxiliary bishop, and is concelebrated by diocesan priests.
Bishop Morlino’s message
In greeting the group at his homily, Bishop Morlino, who celebrated the Mass this year, thanked God, the giver of all gifts, for the special gift of Monsignor Campion, and he then thanked God for the special gift of all of those assembled, who by their being there, call all of us to greater holiness.
He said, “In the first place, the Lord gives to each and every one of you, especially those of you who suffer from developmental disability, a special gift, the gift of hope. We heard in the first reading that Jesus, with the Father, will bind up all the wounds he has allowed to be inflicted upon the people because of sin. This will be fulfilled as Jesus passed on this promise to his successors and the Church, which is us, through the power of our faith.”
The healing of wounds
Bishop Morlino went on to refer to the first reading which said that in the end “God will heal every wound,” but in Christ we know that in the end, the wounds, including those suffered by the developmentally disabled, will not only be healed or simply disappear, they will be glorified, just as the wounds Jesus suffered on the cross were.
He continued to say that every person in the room has wounds, and that they all will be healed, although some are greater than others, and that some of us more that others carry our wounds around with us every blessed day. “And that is our hope given to us by our faith, that our wounds will not only be healed, but better than that, they will be glorified.”
Anima Christi: the soul of Christ
Bishop Morlino said, “By the experience of being wounded, we are in fact hidden, hidden in the glorified wounds of Jesus Christ risen from the dead.” He then recounted the words from the 14th century prayer of the Anima Christi: “Within your wounds, hide me.”
The bishop said, “That is a request to let me, with all of my own wounds, hide, dear Risen Lord, hide in your sacred wounds. Let me hide there, and share in the glory of those wounds. That is our hope.”
Mutually beneficial relationship
He went on to say that it is the job of all of us in the Church and really the job of every decent human being to comfort and to help keep those with afflictions hopeful, not only to help heal their wounds but to glorify them.
“And the way we do that is to help you, the afflicted, as much as we can. Monsignor Campion and those who assist him are a magnificent example of that help,” he said.
He then continued to reinforce the consistent philosophy of the Apostolate mission by saying that “By helping you, we are actually doing something more for ourselves than we are doing for you. You are an invitation to us to be more like Christ by not placing ourselves first, but rather by going out of our way to help you.
“You are a special gift to us from Jesus Christ and the Church because you offer us the opportunity to reach out to you, to help and to love you, and to grow in holiness ourselves. That’s what the Church is all about. Without you, we would be less holy,” the bishop said.
“In the same way you help us; we strive to help you with your burdens. In order for this to continue we rely on the strength given to us by the Church and each other, to keep hope alive and to never give in to discouragement. So please, let all of us take up this cross and let us thank God every day for the gift of hope for those brothers and sisters with developmental disabilities.”