Mass is celebrated on World Day of the Sick at Montreal’s St. Isaac Jogues Parish. Photo courtesy Joanna Kozakiewicz

A timely reminder: don’t forget sick, lonely

By  Joanna Kozakiewicz, Catholic Register Special
  • February 25, 2024

“I was sick and you visited me” (Matthew 25:36).

This Biblical passage was the inspiration behind the Pastoral Home Care/SASMAD service that gathered with more than 120 people at Montreal’s St. Isaac Jogues Parish to celebrate the 32nd World Day of the Sick.

Its message could hardly be more timely.

“It’s an essential need to be visited and to feel that you have value in someone’s eyes,” said André Dupré, director of SASMAD.

“What is important to know is that one in four people, aged 65 and over, is alone in Quebec. We also know that one in three women aged 65 and over is alone. There is a lot of loneliness and a lot of isolation.”

“Because we visit the sick, the World Day of the Sick is the day we gather to pray together and celebrate,” said Cathie Macaulay, one of the coordinators for SASMAD.  

Macaulay said the need for accompaniment in the city of Montreal is evident. 

“I have been doing this job for over 15 years and at the beginning most of our referrals were from parishes, but now most of them are from the CLSC, from the government organizations who are asking for our help to accompany people,” she said.

“When you are dealing with serious illness or people who are close to death, they need accompaniment. It’s very anxiety-provoking to go through that process by yourself. When there is little support and the health-care system is less and less reliable, we are relying more and more on community organizations.” 

The Archdiocese of Montreal has been offering a service of spiritual accompaniment for the sick and elderly at home for over 30 years. 

World Day of the Sick was established by John Paul II and is celebrated every year on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes. The Montreal event was offered in collaboration with the foundation “Les amis de Jeanne Mance,” which sponsored lunch, and Catholic Action which provided a shuttle bus. 

Episcopal Vicar Fr. Harry Célestin celebrated Mass along with eight priests who were invited to celebrate and be available throughout the day for confession and anointment of the sick. 

“Your presence with the sick is powerful,” said Célestin during Mass. 

There was a time of prayer with the Rosary, adoration, confession, Anointing of the Sick along with Mass. 

The Pope’s letter for World Day of the Sick was read to the attendees. The reading emphasized compassion and closeness as the first forms of care. Participants were reminded that the first need in sickness is the need for proximity.

SASMAD was founded in 1992 by Sr. Madelaine St. Michelle, a hospital nun of St. Joseph. In 2022, SASMAD celebrated its 30th anniversary. The service works in communion with local parish communities, priests and other diocesan services to support their pastors and communities in the ministry of the sick, suffering and isolated people.

Hundreds of SASMAD volunteers offer their time freely and confidentially. They wash, care and feed those that are assigned to them every week. They are called to be “agents of proximity” with the sick and the isolated who are at the heart of the church.

Donna Hildebrand is a volunteer who was assigned three women to visit through her parish.

“You get so much more in return than you give,” said Hildebrand.

To conclude Dupré said, “We need to combat a culture of individualism and build a culture of mercy and compassion”.

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