MADISON -- As he accepted the Hometown Hero award in the Assembly chambers July 31 with characteristic humility, Msgr. Thomas F. Campion, the man who has inspired generations from Monroe and the diocese at large to treat people with disabilities with respect and dignity, spoke movingly of his own struggle with a disability.
"It says hometown hero, but there was a time in my life that I would have been the hometown jerk - and that's the Gospel truth," Monsignor Campion said, speaking of his struggle with alcoholism, of his time in jail and on the street.
"It's what made me what I am today," he said. "Because of my own handicap, because I laid in the gutter, because I've slept under park benches and alleyways, I got my devotion to handicapped people. They can't get up out of their wheelchair. I could."
Monsignor Campion, who this year celebrates his 50th anniversary as a priest, has spent 40 years now with the Apostolate to the Handicapped, which helps the elderly and those with disabilities with regular television Masses and several yearly large-group gatherings.
He said he is lucky to have gotten the opportunity to be both a bum and to be accepting the award.
"Never give up on yourself," Monsignor Campion said. "Never give up on anybody, because any of us could go from hometown bum to hometown hero."
Rep. Brett Davis, R-Oregon, a graduate of Monroe High School, nominated Monsignor Campion for the award, and was supported by Rep. Barbara Gronemus, D-Whitehall, who also spoke in praise of Monsignor Campion.
Davis had brought with him the latest, bright-orange version of the Apostolate to the Handicapped "Campion's Champions" T-shirt that had been given to all the attendees and volunteers of the recent summer event in the Wisconsin Dells. Full story ...
Pardeeville parish: Dedicates new church
PARDEEVILLE -- St. Mary of the Most Holy Rosary Parish dedicated its new church, located kitty-corner to the old church, with a Mass of dedication July 28, celebrated by Bishop Robert C. Morlino.
The new church, which was built after a survey of the former church found significant structural issues, will also ease crowding issues and allow for growth.
The response of the parishioners to the finished product was very positive, said Fr. John Hedrick, pastor at St. Mary Parish, which is linked with St. Andrew Parish, Buffalo. And although some of the parishioners, especially those who have been with the parish for a long time, are sad to lose the old church, the people have been very understanding and supportive.
"Personally, I'm very pleased with it," Father Hedrick said. "I'm pleased with the support and the enthusiasm. People supported the project in many ways."
The new church had a boon in the beginning with a bequest from a priest who, during his retirement, lived in the area. Fr. Fred Schmidt donated a large portion of his estate to the parish for them to build a new church.
And then the parishioners were extremely supportive, as well, not only financially but also with their time and talent, Father Hedrick said. For instance, the landscaping and painting was done by volunteer work, the oak trim on the doors and windows were donated and made by volunteers, and the sprinkler system was put in by parishioners.
"I'm very proud of you, and I'm proud of the faith that's existed in this parish for so long," Bishop Morlino said during his homily at the dedication. "Through the grace of God and through the goodness of so many people, there's a new house for Jesus to live in."
And when Jesus comes to live in our house, he said, we're changed, just as Zacchaeus was changed in his encounter with Christ in that Sunday's reading. "Jesus comes to live in a new house today, and in that sense it's a new start for all of us," he said. Full story ...