Day in the Dells demonstrates continuity of God's love Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Sue Klamer Barry, For the Catholic Herald   
Thursday, Sep. 01, 2011 -- 12:00 AM
Activities director at Capitol Lakes Health Center in Madison Paul Bernstein, left, attended the Day in the Dells with center resident Deloris Plummer. Bernstein has been coming to this event since he started working at Capital six years ago. (Catholic Herald photo/ Sue Klamer Barry) For more For more Day in the Dells pictures go to the Catholic Herald SmugMug site.

WISCONSIN DELLS -- The annual “Day in the Dells” sponsored by the Apostolate to the Handicapped on Friday, Aug. 19, was a very upbeat and enjoyable day for over 1,200 disabled and elderly persons.

It was also an event of bittersweet transition after the death last year of its beloved program director, Msgr. Tom Campion.

However, Monsignor Campion’s spirit was evident at the Tommy Bartlett Water-ski Show grounds, as his program supporters were decked out in their “Campion’s Champion’s” T-shirts and worked as hard as ever to make sure everyone was taken good care of as they have been for 45 years.

New director speaks at Mass

The event began as usual with Mass being celebrated on the Tommy Bartlett stage with many priests from around the Diocese of Madison in attendance and giving assistance.

This year marked a new beginning with newly appointed Apostolate to the Handicapped Director Fr. Larry Bakke addressing the group for the first time and reminding the handicapped “of God’s tremendous love for us,” in his homily.


Father Bakke told the large crowd of Monsignor Campion’s beloved handicapped and elderly and their caretakers, “I am privileged, honored, and humbled with great love and affection for Father Campion, to be continuing where he left off.”


He added that he felt somewhat at home at Tommy Bartlett’s as well, since for many years he was the director of Camp Gray located near Baraboo and brought groups of kids to the show weekly.

Sharing God’s love with others

Father Bakke said he also wanted to remind everyone of another gathering going on with Pope Benedict and youth from around the world meeting in Madrid for World Youth Day this week. The theme of that gathering, he said, “Firm in the Faith,” is in the same goodness of the Church here today. “We are basking in God’s tremendous love for us.”

In the first reading (Ruth 1:1, 3-6, 14-16, 22), he added, “We hear of the wonderful relationship of Ruth and Naomi. Just like Ruth takes care of her mother-in-law Naomi, and doesn’t abandon her, God won’t abandon us. God provides for us in so many ways, even taking care of our basic needs.”

Father Bakke said, we need to lift up in gratitude all the people who serve us. He mentioned in particular Tom Diehl, owner of Tommy Bartlett, who with his staff and volunteers, provide this opportunity for the Apostolate to the Handicapped constituents who enjoy this event each year.

He also commended the volunteers for the apostolate, who he said he witnessed making some 1,200 sandwiches at St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Monroe (where he is also the pastor) in about 30 minutes the night before the event.

He continued, “God has assured us in so many verses, be firm in the faith and know I am always with you.”

Being present

Father Campion was the face and voice of this great program for so many years, and we will all miss him, he said.

“I hope to be present to you as much as possible in my new role,” said Father Bakke.

“Many of you may only see me on Sunday mornings on Channel 3 when I say the television Mass for the Apostolate to the Handicapped, but know that I am here for you,” he concluded with a huge, heart-warming and loving smile.

Last homily on change

Last year in his homily at the “Day in the Dells” event, as if he were predicting his call home to his heavenly Father, Monsignor Campion gave a humorous homily about how “Life is Change,” and how he messed up on that class lesson on Darwin’s theory when he was in college.

He hadn’t studied for the pop quiz given by his biology teacher, and Campion said he mistakenly filled in the blank, “Life is what you make it.” He got thrown out of class for that wrong answer and learned the hard way the truth of that theory.

“Life is change for all of us and there is not much we can do about it,” he continued in that homily. “We get older and can’t do anything about it. Change is taking up our challenges in life and especially for the handicapped,” he said.

“It is especially hard for those who face those challenges, yet they do so with vitality and courage and hope. Through the struggles and difficulties we grow, we serve, and most important we keep going.”

Message taken to heart

Several people very close to Monsignor Campion took those words to heart this year.

Tommy Bartlett owner Tom Diehl commented that shortly after the Apostolate “Day in the Dells” last year, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

When Monsignor Campion learned of the diagnosis, “he was more concerned about my health than his own. He never worried about his own health . . . but he was most compassionate about anyone else’s needs,” Diehl said.

He added that he knew last year that Monsignor Campion’s health was deteriorating, so he did a plaque last year to commemorate him for all his years of service.

“We have about 150 Tommy Bartlett ‘orange shirt’ volunteers on site to help with this event and the Apostolate to the Handicapped has another 150 volunteers helping make this event possible,” he said.

Also one of Monsignor Campion’s beloved handicapped helpers, Sergeant TJ (Scottie Boss) from Monroe, lost his mother just the day before the event.

He said, “Father Campion would have wanted me to be here. My friends are here and we have to keep going. If Father Campion was here, he would have carried on whatever was happening with him. . . . He’d be on stage with his oxygen tank.”

Many volunteers help

The day went on without a hitch as volunteers helped get the handicapped and elderly in and out of their seats and transported from many locations.

Ellen Marti, the secretary for the Apostolate to the Handicapped, with its office in Monroe, oversaw the event and said of Monsignor Campion, “He was the second man in my life to whom I said, ’til death do us part,’” depicting some of the humor the priest was known for.

Her departure from the program will be another change in the air, but a new candidate for the position is already in place.

Program events

The two major events held by the Apostolate to the Handicapped each year include the Christmas dinner put on in Monroe each December and the Dells outing held in August.

It is estimated that between 1,200 and 1,400 participants are served at each event and the volunteers who have helped with the program over the years have topped 40,000, according to program coordinators.

Monsignor Campion had been the director of the Apostolate to the Handicapped since its inception in 1967 when Bishop Cletus O’Donnell appointed him to start some kind of program and work “for the handicapped.”

At the time, Father Campion was associate pastor of St. James Parish, Madison; diocesan director of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO); and chaplain of Madison General Hospital.

It is a lasting tribute to the Morgan-Burns family and the entire staff and management of WISC-TV, both past and present, that the television Mass, started by Father Campion over 40 years ago, continues to air every Sunday morning at 7 a.m. Fr. Larry Bakke will now be celebrating those Masses each week.

Father Bakke brings enthusiasm and expertise

Father Bakke was born and raised in Madison at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish. He was, ordained in 1975 by Bishop Cletus F. O’Donnell and his first assignment after ordination was at St. Bernard Parish in Madison. He then assumed the position of diocesan director of youth ministry from 1977 to 1984.

Father Bakke served as director of Camp Gray near Reedsburg from 1979 to 1993. Camp Gray was at first a boys’ summer camp, and has grown into a year-round facility for youth during the summer. From September through May, the camp welcomes people of all ages for retreats, outdoor education programs, and leadership training.

Father Bakke was associate pastor and pastor of St. Albert the Great Parish in Sun Prairie from 1984 to 2000; chaplain to University Hospital in Madison from 2000 to 2004; as well as pastor of Holy Redeemer Parish in Madison from 2000 to 2002 before becoming pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Baraboo in March of 2004.

Now, in addition to being named director of the Apostolate to the Handicapped, Father Bakke will also be pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Monroe (formerly St. Victor Parish, Monroe, and St. Rose of Lima Parish, Brodhead).

He said in an article in the Catholic Herald that he sees this assignment as a “new adventure” in his life as a priest. He indeed, has big shoes to step into, but as he told those he will now serve in the Apostolate to the Handicapped program and in his pastoring roles, “God has tremendous love for us . . . and for me and this is what God wants me to do now.”

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