In conjunction with the diocesan Pastoral Home Care program (SASMAD), pilgrims travelling to Poland for World Youth Day this summer are seeking the intercession of the sick and homebound.

Hundreds of homebound elderly are "doing youth ministry," says Isabel Correa, director of the archdiocesan Youth Ministry Office.

Using prayer cards, the intercessors will offer their "suffering, pain and loneliness" for the pilgrims and for the success of the Krakow event. In thanksgiving, pilgrims will carry their intercessors in prayer - a spiritual work of mercy -- during their July 25-31 pilgrimage.

The WYD prayer cards are being distributed worldwide. In Montreal, they are reaching the sick and homebound through more than 350 parish homecare visitors, over 150 of them from the English parishes.

Although parishes have always made it a priority to visit the sick, it wasn't until 1982 that the initiative was undertaken to co-ordinate efforts in the English sector, under the leadership of Fr. Norman Dodge, SJ, sponsored by the Pillars Trust Fund.

Since 2004, the English sector has been part of a diocesan project, called SASMAD (Service d'accompagnement des personnes malades ou âgées à domicile), founded in 1992 by Sr.  Madeleine St. Michel.  Volunteers are provided with basic and ongoing formation and visits are co-ordinated through parish teams with more than 23 English parishes participating.

During the 2016 celebration of World Day of the Sick, two celebrations were held Feb. 11. The first was a morning of prayer at Sanctuaire St-Jude in Ahunsic, where more than 100 people gathered to pray for the intentions of the sick. Archbishop Christian Lépine presided at the noon-hour Mass, which was followed by a hearty bowl of soup and  an opportunity to visit the SASMAD offices, now relocated in the church rectory.

That evening, the faithful had an opportunity to pass through the Door of Mercy as well as to receive the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick at Mary Queen of the World Cathedral; the Archbishop celebrated the mass that followed.

Ann Ascoli, who has been visiting the homebound since 1976, attended the cathedral event.

"It's a corporal work of mercy" to visit the sick, said the St. Augustine's parishioner. "It is doing what we are supposed to be doing to care for others. I have been given so much and good health, so it is one way to give back to others."

Visiting the sick is one of the seven corporal works of mercy that Pope Francis has emphasized throughout his papacy. A prayer card highlighting the 2016 theme for  World Day of the Sick, "Entrusting oneself to the merciful Jesus," was designed by the SASMAD team to be distributed to those who are sick or dealing with issues of age or immobility.

The English prayer was composed by Fr. Joseph A.E. Sullivan, who is currently hospitalized. He captures beautifully the spirit of struggle and trust familiar to all who are seriously ill. The cards are in high demand and have gone into their second printing.