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A Christmas party for all
Times photo: Brian Gray Monsignor Tom Campion, from left, Jacob Hawkinson, 11, Michael Barrett and a guest greet Bishop Robert Morlino Saturday at the annual Apostolate to the Handicapped Christmas party. The event included dinner and Mass.
MONROE - Guests and volunteers greeted each other with smiles and hugs Saturday at the Apostolate to the Handicapped Christmas party at Monroe High School.

The best thing about the day is being with friends, said Dawn Wienke, Monroe.

"I've gotten to know a lot of people," she said.

The Christmas party has been an annual highlight for guests and caregivers alike for more than 40 years. The handicapped come because they know it's their day, a chance to see friends and to enjoy the Christmas spirit.

They also symbolize the spirit of Christmas, Bishop Robert Morlino said.

"You are an invitation to us to be more like Christ," Morlino told the guests. "You are a precious gift."

Morlino reminded the guests and volunteers that everyone needs help.

"We are all wounded some way," he said. "You call us to greater holiness. You teach not to place ourselves first, but to help you first."

Everyone's limitations will be glorified by God, Morlino assured them, just as the wounds of Jesus were glorified after he was raised from the dead, he said.

About 1,000 people of all ages, from across southern Wisconsin, Iowa and northern Illinois, attended the dinner and Mass.

"Out of our difficulties, grow miracles," was the theme for the party.

"You are special and this day is about you," Monsignor Thomas Campion said. "We all go through our challenges in life. We all have our weaknesses and limitations, and it is from these that we find hope and opportunity."

Campion, who founded the Apostolate to the Handicapped more than 40 years ago, shook hands and greeted as many people as he could. The handicapped stood to shake his hand or hug him and told him how much they appreciated him.

Those who couldn't stand reached out and smiled when he shook their hands.

"The human spirit is powerful," Campion said.

It's that spirit that makes the day a success. Volunteers made dinner, helped the guests find their tables, provided rides and made the handicapped feel welcome. Hundreds of volunteers help make the event possible. They also help at other events, including a summer trip to Wisconsin Dells.

In addition to dinner and Mass, the annual celebration includes singing and Christmas gifts for those attending.