|Msgr. Campion holds Owen for a photo with Aaron at the Apostolate to the Handicapped Christmas Party on December 6. (Catholic Herald photo by Jo and Bill Boyce) |
|See the Catholic Herald slideshow of photos from the event.|
MONROE -- In his traditional talk after the Mass at the annual Apostolate to the Handicapped Christmas Party, director Msgr. Thomas F. Campion spoke of a boy, Adam Bender, whose story of overcoming the odds has been written up recently in several news outlets nationally.
In addition to being a typical eight-year-old boy, Bender plays sports -- football, soccer, baseball, and even wrestling -- despite, after being born with a malignant tumor, only having one leg.
"As one of his classmates says, 'He's invincible,'" Monsignor Campion said. "And, you know, maybe that's the beginning and the end of the Apostolate to the Handicapped: you try your best, and you never give up."
The Apostolate to the Handicapped Christmas Party, held on December 6, the Feast of St. Nicholas, survived its own challenge this year, continuing despite some snowfall, slippery roads, and cool temperatures. It drew nearly 800 people, with about 300 volunteers serving the elderly and those with disabilities and making the Mass with Bishop William H. Bullock, the dinner, and the visit from Santa Claus an event to remember.
"It's not the best day in weather history, but you're here," Monsignor Campion said. "You give your best and you never give up."
Many thanks went out to the various people who have made the Apostolate happen over the years, including WISC-TV, Channel 3, which has maintained the "unbroken chain" of weekly television Masses, and Bishop Bullock, who has been an unflagging supporter of the Apostolate despite being, as Monsignor Campion put it, "no spring chicken, either."
"But you are present to us," he said of Bishop Bullock, of WISC-TV, and of all of the people at the event. "That's where it counts. We can use all the nice words we want, but you are there; you are with us; you are present."
Even the gifts this year -- a unique, laser-carved, wooden ornament of the logo of the Apostolate -- had overcome a large setback.
Earlier in the year, Monsignor Campion said, a house fire caused by a lightning strike had destroyed the first 500 or so ornaments that had been made. Those ornaments, each one of
which took an hour and four minutes to be individually carved by artisan Melvin Zemlicka of Madison, were replaced in time to be distributed to all of the attendees and volunteers.
"To me, it's a treasure," said Monsignor Campion. "Keep it proudly, because you are the gift, and you have shared that gift with us."
Celebrating an opportunity
Appropriately, the theme of the Christmas Day this year was "The Gift You Have Received, Give as a Gift." Or, as Bishop Bullock phrased it: "Give the gift of who you are to others," or "Bestow the fullness of yourself as a person to other people."
"Immediately, when we hear things like that or get invitations to that, we say to ourselves, 'What have I to give? I am heavily burdened by limitations; my schedule is already busy,'" Bishop Bullock said in his homily. "These and many other excuses can come readily to mind. . . . So we excuse ourselves, beg off the effort, and sit back and watch others do the work.
"So what are we celebrating today?" he continued. "We are celebrating the goodness of God. We are celebrating our opportunity to help the handicapped.
"Each one of us is interested in becoming what God wants for us because we all know that tied to what he wants for us is our salvation in Jesus and his Church," the bishop said. "As we look around, with the hundreds of the handicapped who are here in this gymnasium, we can hear 'Our salvation is near.' The handicapped give us the reason for our new hope for salvation."
God calls us to care for those who cannot completely care for themselves, Bishop Bullock said. Those with disabilities are, in one way, our way to heaven; they are our way to full salvation in Christ.
"So today we give thanks, we celebrate, and we worship God in Truth, in love, and commitment: commitment to genuinely care for the handicapped," he said.
The best Apostolate
"We have got the best Apostolate that we could ever have," said Danny Remick, Madison, in a slow but moving speech after Monsignor Campion addressed the gathering at the end of Mass. Remick was at the very first apostolate in 1967 and has been with it ever since.
"We are happy to have Bishop William Bullock here, who is very special to all of us," said Remick. "Without Father Tom and Bishop, this program would not be where it is."