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New Apostolate director: 'This is what God is calling me to do'
Times photo: Anthony Wahl Father Larry Bakke, a Madison native, has been appointed to St. Victor Parish and will assume the director role for the Apostolate to the Handicapped. He is pictured in front of a statue at the church that depicts the late Monsignor Thomas Campion and his work with the Apostolate.

MONROE - When Monroe bid a final farewell to Monsignor Thomas Campion last year, many wondered how the ministry he founded, nurtured and grew - The Apostolate to the Handicapped - would go on.

Church officials promised that the ministry, popular with the disabled and volunteers alike, would endure. Now, a new director of the Apostolate to the Handicapped has been named: Father Larry Bakke has been appointed to St. Victor Parish in Monroe and its sister church, St. Rose of Lima in Brodhead. As part of that appointment, he will also assume leadership of the Apostolate.

Campion, who was ordained a priest in May 1957, was appointed to start some kind of program and work for the handicapped in 1967. The Apostolate, which had a good foundation when established at St. James in Madison, moved with the priest to Monroe when he was transferred in 1971 to St. Clare Hospital.

In honor of all the work Campion did for the Apostolate, Campion became Monsignor, as he was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

Campion died Nov. 12 at the age of 79.

Bakke says he shares Campion's passion, and the church's mission, to helping those with unique challenges in life.

"The Catholic Church has always been concerned with the disabled," Bakke said. "We are all handicapped in someway because we are not all perfect people."

He said he will leave Campion's ministry intact - including taping the televised Mass on Channel 3 in Madison that was started on the first Sunday of Advent in 1967. And the organization will host the Day in the Dells at the Tommy Bartlett Show in the Wisconsin Dell Friday, Aug. 19.

Bakke said people of all walks of life come to the event, and is excited to attend as the new director.

"I love to meet people and get to know them and have them get to know me as the director," Bakke said.

After learning the director position, he said he wants to be able to expand the organization's ministry somehow. And he said it will be challenging to learn to balance his dual roles as a pastor and the Apostolate director.

"This is what God is calling me to do next," Bakke said. "I had faith in the move."

Bakke's first weekend Mass was held on July 9, and Bakke said worshippers and community members have made him feel at home.

"The people welcomed me here at the parish and around the town," Bakke said. "It's just been wonderful."

Bakke was ordained for the Diocese of Madison on May 23, 1975. But his love of the faith stretches back to his childhood, while growing up in Madison

"My mother was Irish Catholic and she was involved in our home parish," Bakke said. Bakke attended Catholic schools and stayed active in the church.

And for one of his favorite chapters in the Bible is John 14. "It encourages people to grow in their faith in the Lord," Bakke said.