Apostolate puts the disabled front and center Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler   
Thursday, Sep. 27, 2018 -- 12:00 AM

I was even called into service a few times to escort a guest to the restroom when all the volunteers were busy. The guests were always so appreciative of my help.

Father Tom’s enthusiasm

While Fr. Thomas Campion — later Monsignor Campion — was the director, all of us couldn’t help but catch his enthusiasm and love for all those attending and volunteering for the Advent/Christmas Parties, the former Easter Masses and Parties, and the Days at the Dells.

But Father Tom wasn’t so enthusiastic when he started as director of the Apostolate. When he sat down for an interview with me at the time of the 25th anniversary of the Apostolate, he recalled that he wasn’t that thrilled when Bishop Cletus F. O’Donnell asked him to direct the new apostolate for the handicapped in 1967.

Father Tom said he had little or no experience with the handicapped. “But the bishop knew that I had a handicap of my own,” admitted Father Tom. He had just returned from an alcohol rehabilitation program.

Father Tom talked with Bishop O’Donnell about a similar program for the handicapped in the Archdiocese of Chicago, and he got in touch with a priest there and visited him in Chicago. “I got enthusiastic about it after talking with him,” Father Tom said.

He came back to Madison and got the ball rolling. The rest is history.

TV Mass for shut-ins

One of the first things that he did was start a Mass for shut-ins on WISC-TV, Channel 3. That Mass continues every Sunday to this day.

It is a blessing for those who can’t get to church on Sunday. I know many people who appreciate it, including my own mother-in-law, who watched it when she couldn’t get to church.

As Mrs. Elizabeth Murphy Burns, the current president of Morgan Murphy Media, told me in an interview, her family-owned company is committed to providing the TV Mass. Thank you!

Part of the human family

In that interview 25 years ago, Father Tom told me that the handicapped “are an important part of the human family,” and it is vital to show the disabled that they are “not alone” and are part of “something bigger.”

Msgr. Larry Bakke, the current director of the Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities, has continued that tradition of love, care, and compassion for persons with disabilities.

He and the staff members of the Apostolate, Deacon Jim Hoegemeier and Kellie O’Brien, have helped expand the services offered, including providing grants to parishes and schools to help make buildings and programs more accessible, and working with other diocesan offices and agencies.

The Apostolate is also encouraging parishes to have a Parish Disability Liaison to work towards total inclusion of persons with disabilities in the life of the local Church.

Father Tom said that when he started as director of the Apostolate, disabled people were “practically invisible” in society. The Apostolate has helped bring them into public consciousness, front and center in the Church and society.

I encourage everyone in the Diocese of Madison to continue to support the work of the Apostolate. Consider volunteering at the parish and diocesan levels and donating to support its work. For more information, go to or call 608-821-3050 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it