Apostolate presents annual Advent/Christmas party in Monroe Print E-mail
Around the Diocese
Written by Kevin Wondrash, Catholic Herald Staff   
Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016 -- 12:00 AM
apostolate bakke
Msgr. Larry Bakke, director of the Apostolate to the Handicapped, visits with Helen and Laura Cox from Fort Atkinson at the annual Advent/Christmas Party at Monroe High School in Monroe December 3. To view or purchase photos, go to (Catholic Herald photo/Kevin Wondrash)

MONROE -- More than 500 guests recently got to enjoy a yearly seasonal tradition.

December 3 marked the annual Advent/Christmas Party put on by the Diocese of Madison Apostolate to the Handicapped (soon to be known as the Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities) at Monroe High School in Monroe.

Each year, the party is a chance to get together with old and new friends, attend Mass, sample Christmas goodies, eat lunch together, sing and dance to Christmas music, and celebrate the season.

A great and fun time

“I just think it’s a great thing to do,” said Lillian Stull from Madison, who attended the party for the sixth time.

She added that she doesn’t have a favorite part, “it’s all great.”

Eileen Powers from Oregon, who along with her sister Lynn were decked out in Christmas lights, said the decorated school gym was “very pretty” and she enjoyed the Christmas songs and the later appearance by Santa Claus.

“It’s fun,” she said.

As guests arrived at the high school, some made their way to the gym on their own, while others, especially those in wheelchairs, were escorted by some of the dozens of volunteers.

The volunteers also helped with setting up the gym, preparing the food, and visiting with the guests.

As the gym filled up, Christmas music was provided by the artist simply known as Hugo, with his guitar and voice.

Some guests showed their enjoyment by getting on the floor and dancing with others.

Twelve-year-old Evan Knobel attended the party for the first time. He said it was “nice” and was looking forward to “spending time with people” -- new friends and old.

Celebrating Mass

As Mass started, Bishop Robert C. Morlino of Madison, who was the main celebrant said, “Thank you for being here. Thank you for being so joyful. And, let’s carry that joy to the Eucharistic celebration, joyful especially that Jesus has come to save us.”

Other priests from the diocese served as concelebrants and later helped distribute Communion to the guests seated in the gym.

Nurses from the area helped bring water to guests if they needed it during Communion. The nurses also helped with other guest needs during the event.

The Madison Diocesan Choir, directed by Dr. Patrick Gorman, along with the Monroe High School Band provided the music during Mass.

During his homily, Bishop Morlino reflected on Advent and the hope of waiting for the Lord in Heaven.

“Just imagine being surprised by the hope of Heaven,” Bishop Morlino said. “ Nobody who gets there is going to be disappointed. Everybody who gets there is going to rejoice.

“But, what we’re going to rejoice about is unimaginable. The awareness and the feeling that God loves us and accepts us for all eternity, which is what happens in Heaven, is going to blow us all over.”

He added, “We talk about Heaven as though we know what we’re talking about, but we have no idea what God has in store for those who love him.”

Bishop Morlino also said, “[In] our daily lives, no matter how difficult thing might get sometimes, no matter how lonely we might be sometimes, no matter how restrained, no matter how shut-in we might feel at times, no matter how rough it gets, the biggest surprise that anyone could ever imagine, far bigger than the election results, is waiting for us in Heaven.”

Joyful message

At the end of Mass, Msgr. Larry Bakke, director of the Apostolate, spoke and welcomed everyone to the event.

“What a message that the good news of the Church brings us in different ways in our parishes, through the apostolate, and in a special way we thank you Bishop Morlino and my brother priests for proclaiming and gathering to give that message to us this day,” said Monsignor Bakke.

“What a joy to gather with you this day and goodness of a beautiful day and all those kinds of goodness that have helped us be together.”

Monsignor Bakke also introduced the new apostolate staff members, Deacon Jim Hoegemeier, associate director, and Kellie Raddell, administrative assistant.

Bishop Morlino then thanked Monsignor Bakke for all the work he does with the apostolate and as pastor of St. Clare Parish in Brodhead and Monroe.

The party continues

Following Mass, volunteers worked fast to bring lunch to the guests and their friends, guardians, and drivers.

Turley, mashed potatoes, carrots, applesauce, a roll, and ice cream were on the menu.

Members of the Monroe High School Future Farmers of America were again on hand to bring the plates of food to the happy and eager crowd in the gym.

As guests ate, Hugo took the “stage” again and continued playing and singing Christmas songs and other popular favorites.

Some guests ate as fast as they could to get back out on the dance floor.

Circles of four or six people formed to include more people in on the fun.

As Hugo played “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” Santa and Mrs. Claus did come to “town” ready to meet everyone.

Phones and cameras appeared rapidly as happy guests wanted their pictures taken with the North Pole couple in their festive red suits.

First-time guest Mary Wing from Monroe said she was looking forward to enjoying “the food, the people, and the music” and added the whole place “looks pretty good”.

As the time to leave approached, guests were wheeled or walked out of the school, but not before receiving a gift bag and a “Merry Christmas” from volunteers.

The gift bag featured scented soap made by the Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Clyde, Mo.

For more information on the Apostolate to the Handicapped, go to

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