Le Service d’accompagnement spirituel pour les personnes malades ou âgées à domicile (SASMAD), or as it is known in English, Pastoral Home Care, is an outreach program of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal. It is a free and confidential service that provides spiritual support through home visits to those who are sick or elderly. It is volunteer based and is supported by the archdiocese and by a private Catholic foundation.
SASMAD’s Faith Community
SASMAD is an outreach ministry of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Montreal. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest church within the Catholic communion, which has a global number of adherents estimated at 1.3 billion.1 It is also the largest and one of the most ancient Christian communities globally. Twenty-nine percent of people in Canada identify as Catholic.2
The Roman Catholic Church has had a presence in what is now Montreal since its founding in May 1642 as Ville-Marie, a French settlement and mission to First Nations peoples, by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance. Most of Montreal’s institutions from its seventeenth-century founding until the mid-twentieth century were under the auspices of the Roman Catholic Church. This includes its first and oldest hospital, the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal, also founded in 1645 by Jeanne Mance and the Religious Hospitallers of St. Joseph, an order of religious sisters.
With numerous educational, cultural, and charitable institutions well-established by the mid-nineteenth century, the Roman Catholic Church in Montreal was organized in 1836 into a diocese independent of the metropolitan see of Quebec.
The first bishop was Bishop Jean-Jacques Lartigue. The present archbishop is Archbishop Christian Lépine. Montreal became an archdiocese in 1886. The Archdiocese of Montreal has a metropolitan territory of 947 square kilometers and a nominal Catholic population of 1,282,799 persons. It comprises 189 parishes that administer over 214 churches.3 There are 740 priests, 82 deacons, and 2,124 men and women in religious orders who serve the faithful of the archdiocese.4 The Archdiocese of Montreal is the second largest in Canada after the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto.
The activities of SASMAD and its volunteers are guided by their Catholic faith and the call of Jesus Christ in the Gospels to visit the sick and comfort the suffering. While acting out of fidelity to their Catholic faith, the volunteers of SASMAD provide accompaniment to anyone who is sick and in need, no matter what their faith tradition: “Faithful to God who has called us, in the Church, to care for the sick at home, we make a commitment to respond to the spiritual needs of people who are suffering, within the context of the reforms in the healthcare system, whatever their beliefs.”5 While being faithful to the gospel, SASMAD’s activities are not explicitly evangelistic. Depending on the individual person’s needs, SASMAD volunteers are trained to provide spiritual accompaniment that is not specifically Catholic but is what they describe as listening at the level of meaning. This contrasts with religious accompaniment, which offers specific religious support to Catholics that can include reading Scripture with them, listening to hymns, prayer, and distribution of the Holy Eucharist.
History and Goals
The mission of SASMAD is founded on the verses from the Gospel of St. Matthew (25:31–40) that speak about the Christian duty to those in need: the sick, the naked, and the imprisoned. This Gospel pericope references Christ the King who at the moment of judgment tells the righteous ones, Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. . . .Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.