History of the Apostolate to the Handicapped
On October 31, 1967, Bishop Cletus O’Donnell appointed Father Thomas Campion to start some kind of a program and work “for the handicapped”.
At the time, Father Campion was Associate Pastor of St. James Parish, Madison; Diocesean Director of the Catholic Youth Organization (C.Y.O.) and Chaplain of Madison General Hospital.
The first work of the yet unnamed organization was the television Mass. Through the generosity of Mrs. Elizabeth Murphy, then owner of WISC-TV, Channel 3 in Madison, the first television Mass was shown on the first Sunday of Advent in 1967. After Mrs. Murphy’s death, her daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Burns choose to continue their family’s loyal and generous tradition of the television Mass. Over the years, it has aired at different times and was originally 45 minutes in length.
It is a lasting tribute to the generosity of the Morgan-Burns family and the entire staff and management of WISC-TV, both past and present, that the television Mass continues to air every Sunday morning at 7:00 a.m.
The next visible sign of this new program was the first “day for the handicapped” on January 6, 1968 held at Holy Name Seminary which was titled “Little Christmas with the Bishop”. Sixty handicapped persons attended, which at the time was considered overwhelming because of the large number of handicapped gathered in one place.
The Apostolate to the Handicapped received its name when a contest was held to name the new organization. Bernadette Wagner of Sun Prairie is credited with winning the contest and the idea for the name.
In 1971, Father Campion was transferred to be Chaplain at St. Clare Hospital in Monroe, and with the good foundation that had been established at St. James in Madison, the Apostolate to the Handicapped office also moved to Monroe, Wisconsin.
The Apostolate to the Handicapped was and is currently funded totally on volunteer contributions as a living testimony of the charity of people who show they really care.
Fr. Larry Bakke is the current Director for the Apostolate to the Handicapped, as well as pastor at St. Clare of Assisi Parish, Monroe.