About Us

The Apostolate for Persons with Disabilities

We are challenged to minister as Christ ministered: seeing beyond disability to ability; nurturing and challenging each person’s abilities; and advocating on behalf of all so that they will be allowed full access and participation in all areas of their lives, in a special way as they strive to live out a life of discipleship and the sharing of God’s blessings on our church, country and community.

Our Staff

From strategic planning to personal ministry, our staff strives to support disability and mental wellness ministries and programs with information on best practices, current resources, and trainings.
Rev. Msgr. Larry Bakke
Megan Wedwick
Kayla Schiesser
Administrative Coordinator



In 1967, Bishop Cletus O’Donnell, the second Bishop of Madison, asked a young priest, Father Thomas Campion, to undertake a new ministry – outreach to persons with disabilities. Father Campion embraced this new challenge. The Apostolate to the Handicapped was founded on October 31, 1967.

St. James Parish in Madison served as the first home of the Apostolate. Father Campion served as Associate Pastor at St. James, as well as serving as Diocesan Director of the Catholic Youth Organization (C.Y.O.) and Chaplain of Madison General Hospital.

The first work of the organization was to develop a weekly television Mass to help support and strengthen the spiritual lives of people of all faiths facing challenges related to disabilities. Through the generosity of Mrs. Elizabeth Beck Murphy, then owner of WISC-TV, Channel 3, in Madison, the first television Mass was aired on the First Sunday of Advent in 1967. After Mrs. Murphy’s death on August 16, 1982, her daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Murphy Burns, chose to continue their family’s loyal and generous tradition of support of the television Mass. Over the years, the television Mass 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 6:00 and 7:00 am.

Thanks to the zeal of Father Campion, “Little Christmas with the Bishop” took place at Holy Name Seminary in Madison on January 6, 1968. This event developed into an annual Advent/Christmas Party and Mass that was held at Monroe High School for many years. Most recently, this event and Mass has moved to Pastorate 11’s St. Victor location. The efforts and generosity of the Monroe community make this a very special event for many each year.

In 1971, Father Campion was assigned to serve as Chaplain of St. Clare Hospital in Monroe. The solid foundation he established for the Apostolate moved with him to Monroe.

The first Day at the Dells was held in the summer of 1978. This event, which began as boat rides for several people with disabilities, grew to be a very large annual event that was held at the Tommy Bartlett Show grounds in Wisconsin Dells. The management and staff of the Tommy Bartlett Show generously provide the grounds, show and staff. The event began with Mass, then a picnic lunch, followed by the entire Tommy Bartlett Ski, Sky and Stage Show. Unfortunately, the 2020 event was cancelled due to the global pandemic, which also contributed to the full closure of the Tommy Bartlett grounds and show. The Madison Mallards hosted an reiteration of this event called Day at the Duck Pond in 2022 and 2023. In June of 2024, the event is slated to again take on a new iteration as Day at Devil’s Lake.

After 43 years of directing the Apostolate, Msgr. Thomas Campion passed away on November 12, 2010.

Msgr. Larry Bakke, pastor of St. Clare of Assisi Parish in Monroe, was appointed Apostolate director by Bishop Robert Morlino, Bishop of Madison, in 2011. Msgr. Bakke hired on the Apostolate’s first part-time staff person, Linda Faessler, and put together an advisory board early on in his directorship in order to extend the reach of the ministry.

In 2013, Msgr. Bakke developed a program to provide financial grants to parishes, schools and agencies in the Diocese of Madison to help ensure that persons with disabilities are fully included in the life of the Church. Grants have been used to make buildings more accessible to persons with disabilities and to help fund programs that benefit persons with disabilities and their families.

In October of 2016, the Apostolate hired the first full-time staff members, Deacon Jim Hoegemeier and Kellie O’Brien, and began the process of moving operations from Monroe to the Holy Name Heights campus in Madison, where many diocesan offices are located. In 2019, Kayla Schiesser joined the Apostolate Staff to support our work in the Diocese.

Kellie O’Brien (in 2021) and Deacon Jim Hoegemeier (in 2022) each moved into new positions. The Apostolate is thankful for all they did as staff members and wish them well in their new endeavors.

In 2022 the Apostolate hired Megan Wedwick as the new Director.

Thanks to the strong foundation established by Msgr. Campion, the tenure of direction and current chaplaincy of Msgr. Larry, the dedication of all staff, and many generous benefactors, the Apostolate is in the position to assist parishes, schools and agencies in the Diocese of Madison in recognizing and addressing the spiritual needs of persons with disabilities and older adults. The Apostolate is blessed to have many people volunteer their time and talents in the roles of Disability Liaisons and Mental Health Advocates to extend our reach and presence with Disability and Mental Health Ministries in parishes throughout the Diocese of Madison. With strong leadership and continued support, we look forward to ensuring that all people can fully participate in the life of the Church.


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