Bishop William H. Bullock, bishop emeritus, accepts the Offertory gifts at the annual Christmas Mass sponsored by the Apostolate to the Handicapped held recently at Monroe High School. (Catholic Herald photo/Jo and Bill Boyce)
MONROE -- Although he wasn’t there in person, Msgr. Thomas F. Campion was certainly there in spirit — and in the minds and hearts of so many of the disabled and elderly guests and the many volunteers at the annual Apostolate to the Handicapped Christmas Mass and Party held on Saturday, Dec. 4, at the Monroe High School gymnasium.
Monsignor Campion, director of the apostolate for 43 years, died on November 12 at his home in Monroe.
Bishop William H. Bullock, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Madison, presided and preached at the Mass.
Because of the snow and wintery road conditions, there were fewer guests than expected. However, those who did attend appreciated the Mass, dinner, and Christmas cheer, including the usual visit from Santa Claus.
Remembering Msgr. Campion
Those attending the event were given a gift selected by Monsignor Campion before he died. It was a clear crystal-like box with a colored butterfly on top and inscribed, “In dreams we can fly.”
In his homily, Bishop Bullock said, “This year we recall the lasting memory of Msgr. Thomas Campion, founder of the Apostolate, whose funeral we celebrated in this very room just one week ago.
“Thank you for inviting me to be part of the Christmas Party this year; it is good to be with you once again. Bishop Morlino, our diocesan bishop, has asked me to take this Mass because of a conflict in his busy schedule. He is with us, however, in prayer. And I am sure Monsignor Campion would want me to direct my homily thoughts to you who have made a sacrifice to be here today,” said Bishop Bullock.
‘Heal Our Bruises’
The theme for this Christmas Mass and party was, appropriately, “Heal Our Bruises.” Fr. Mike Klarer, pastor of St. Victor Parish in Monroe, mentioned the theme in greeting those attending the Mass.
Likewise, Bishop Bullock talked about the theme in his homily. “In our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah we are reminded, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’ We are also reminded that it is the Lord who binds up the wounds of His people, the Lord who heals our bruises.”
Bishop Bullock asked, “Have you ever been bruised by comments or criticisms? Have your feelings been hurt?”
He answered, “Yes of course, we all have, because we live in a world where people break their promises and sever friendships. We are sometimes at the receiving end of neglect and hurt that leaves us with emotional and spiritual bruises, bruises that are painful to the human spirit. They hurt.
“Cuts to the body, wounds to the spirit, and the heaviness that comes from criticisms placed on us are all common experiences. We must learn to expect them as we walk through this earthly veil of tears on our way to the Kingdom of Heaven. How should we handle them in our lives is a question I would like to address in my homily today.”
Jesus heals our wounds
Bishop Bullock noted that Jesus was always sensitive to those who, whether in body and soul, were subject to bruises.
“Jesus spent his life preaching the Gospel, the Good News of Salvation, to those who were poor and lowly. Jesus would bind up the wounds of the body and heal those bruises to broken hearts.
“Jesus was a healer and spent time among all different kinds of people,” said Bishop Bullock. “The Scriptures remind us that Jesus’ heart was always ‘moved with pity’ for His people. He so loved them that He did not want them to be hurt or feel neglected.
“Jesus went about seeking out the sick, the poor, the infirm, the hungry and thirsty and naked, and those without a home. Jesus regarded these people as troubled and abandoned by society. They were, in His words, ‘like sheep without a shepherd.’
Sharing God’s love
“Recently Mary Uhler, our editor of the Catholic Herald, wrote about the late Bishop George Wirz as one who was in love with his priesthood. He considered it a gift . . . and like any good gift it is something to unwrap, in order to share it with others. Jesus tells us we are to seek out the poor, the hungry, those who need clothing, those in prison, and those who are ill, to share the gift of God’s love with them.
“God’s love is strong, constant, and ever present to us. All we have to do is accept His love, share it with others, and give it back to Him in ways that truly help others be healed of their bruises and their neglects,” said Bishop Bullock.
He observed that life in our society often gets too busy; we get caught up in the “rush of things” and forget how important “people” are.
“However, when we sit back and become reluctant to step up to the plate, to step out in faith to help others, we sometimes get a little paralyzed with fear. We don’t help and pitch in because we fear we will be rejected.
“But, my dear friends, we never need to fear because God always goes ahead of us. God disposes people to be open and receptive. God disposes those He wants to help through us. So when you feel God’s love, step out in faith and give His love to others with no fear in your heart. Be confident in God — don’t hold back.
“‘God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son into the world in order that we have life and life to the fullest.’ His Son, Jesus, commands and invites us to love others with His love. Jesus tells us, do not be afraid. Why? Because God has first loved us — He empowers us to share His love with others.”
Handicapped, caregivers are special people
Bishop Bullock said that he has met God’s “special people.” He explained, “They are the handicapped and with them are their caregivers. These are the people who bind up the wounds, those who change diapers on them, clean up after them, and push their wheelchairs, help them eat and drink.
“Whenever I come for the Handicapped Mass, I always know of your thanks and appreciation but I must confess I feel embarrassed because I think it is you, the caregivers, who help not just now and then, but everyday.”
Overcoming our fears
Bishop Bullock shared a story that might help people overcome their “fears” in reaching out to help others.
He talked about the trapeze act in a circus, where a person swings out toward the middle of the tent hanging on to a bar from suspended ropes. The person swings back and forth ready at any moment to grasp a new trapeze bar that is coming at them from the opposite direction.
“There’s a moment between letting go and reaching out, almost just floating in mid-air, that is scary. But the trapeze artist knows he or she must ‘let go’ in order to reach the new one.
“Our response to Jesus’ command to help the handicapped is like that. Sometimes when we want to reach out to others, we are hesitant to let go of our feelings and fears. We feel uneasy but we know we can’t help someone until we let go of our fears and reach out in faith for the sake of a person who needs us.
“When we do, however, it is at that precise moment we bond with that person. We let go of our fears and the person we want to help welcomes us and our assistance,” said Bishop Bullock.
“Let us then pray for one another today that we may reach out in faith and not be afraid. Jesus, Our Lord and Savior, will give us strength to reach out with His love.
“God bless all of you, especially the caregivers. May God bless the Apostolate to the Handicapped. My Christmas prayer for you is that we, as God’s people, give ourselves more fully each day to this very worthwhile and living Apostolate. Jesus is counting on us.”