Leila Abdallah has told a sell-out crowd at the Inaugural Labouré Lecture that despite sometimes crying at Mass she would “never, ever, ever change” from her Catholic faith.
Alongside her husband Danny and daughter Liana, the Abdallahs were the guest speakers of the Lecture and St Catherine Labouré Gymea Parish Dinner on Friday night at Doltone House, Sylvania Waters.
Hosted by Monica Doumit, 400 parishioners, including Bishop Richard Umbers, listened intently to Leila and Danny talk of their upbringing, their tragedy in which three of their children were killed by a drunk and drugged driver in 2020, and how their faith is helping with their lives.
“Growing up I would pray to Mother Mary and learn of the miracles, her purity, innocence and pray the rosary,” Leila said.
Danny on the other hand admitted he was a bit of a “ratbag kid” who after originally attending Hillsong Church, learnt of Catholicism from the church fathers and was brought to the Catholic faith before his marriage.
Monica Doumit asked Danny: “ Where would you be now without your Catholic faith?”
“That is a good question,” Danny replied.
“I know someone who had a similar journey to ours who was without faith. He lost two kids and some months later, he shot himself.
“I know my kids are in heaven with the best babysitter you could ever have, Jesus.”
Danny added he starts and finishes every day with God.
“I work on my worship and I worship in my work.
“We are aware that 65 per cent of marriages fail after the death of a child.”
Leila added: ““So we work on listening to one another.
“If Danny has had a bad day I will listen to him, and then on another day, Danny will listen to me when I need it.
“The job of a husband and wife is to get one another to heaven.”
A world yearning for forgivenness
Leila said forgiveness is a key part of her family’s life, but, in a light-hearted moment, said sometimes she thinks her son might be taking advantage of it.
“If he gets into trouble with me he will sometimes turn to me and say, “Mum, you should forgive me!”
Daughter Liana, on stage with her parents, said she still feels “sad for the driver, and forgave him, as he was young and still had his whole life to live.”
The Abdallahs said the world is “yearning for the message of forgiveness.”
“Once you understand forgiveness, it is not just for the other person, but for yourself as well,” Danny said.
Mercy and truth embraced in couple: Parish Priest
I4give Day, commemorating the tragic accident each year on February 1, has turned into a week-long festival of forgiveness reaching into schools, prisons, the Indigenous community and encompassing all faiths as well as people without faith.
The Abdallahs were presented with a $10,000 gift for the I4give Foundation by Gymea Parish Priest Fr Greg Morgan, after delivering a truly inspiring vote of thanks.
“In you Danny and Leila, mercy and truth have embraced,” Fr Greg Morgan said.
“You have come to our parish community tonight as walking signs of the cross; as walking crucifixes.
“In you Danny and Leila, the power of the Catholic faith – its universality, its intelligence, and its timeless relevance – shines through in a way that no soul, no matter how hardened or bitter they may be, has the power to resist.
“From the bottom of my heart and in union with the hearts of every person here tonight I say thank you to God and thank you to you.
“You have brought the mission and the vision of this parish to life, illuminating for us that in Christ crucified you can do everything, and that truly, we cannot live our lives away from the Mass,” he added.
The St Catherine Labouré Parish Dinner and Labouré Lecture will be held each year at the end of November to coincide with the Saint’s feast day.