Her daughter was killed by drunk driver, so she started prayer forum

Bridget Sakr poses with her children, Michael and Veronique. Veronique, 11, was killed by a drunk driver in February in Sydney, along with her cousins Sienna, 8, Angelina, 12, and Antony, 13. (CNS photo/supplied, The Catholic Weekly)

SYDNEY (CNS) -- Bridget Sakr, whose 11-year-old daughter Veronique was killed by a drunk driver earlier this year, has launched a weekly prayer gathering for families experiencing trauma and grief.

Sakr said she wanted to offer something for the many families who experience trauma and tragedy but are not blessed with the "amazing support" that she continues to receive.

Addressing a gap in the services of many grief counselors and psychologists, she decided to offer a place online for people to come together in prayer and bring their loss, trauma and grief to God in a supportive and safe environment.

"I wanted to create something that would honor Veronique through helping people in their grief and suffering," Sakr told The Catholic Weekly, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Sydney.

In October, the driver, Samuel William Davidson, 30, pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Veronique and her cousins Sienna, 8, Angelina, 12, and Antony, 13, Feb. 1.

"My faith is what keeps carrying me through this, it is my faith that gets me out of bed and tells me that I'm going to see my daughter because there is eternal life," Sakr said. "And what also continues to uphold me through each day is the love and support of so many people.”

In October, Sakr launched heartFELT -- which stands for Families Experiencing Loss and Trauma -- with support from the grief care team at Catholic Cemeteries and Crematoria, which operates several cemeteries in western Sydney. A weekly online prayer gathering, heartFELT includes time for meditation on a theme, discussion, and prayers led by Sakr.

Additional pastoral support is available from members of the grief care team, including Paige Bullen.

"We're very happy to support Bridget with this, as there are few places to be found for spiritual nourishment for people experiencing trauma and grief, where they can safely express their grief and work out their own meaning from their faith," Bullen said. "We share that vision with her.”

Sakr said the prayer gatherings are not only for people who are grieving the death of a relative, but any loss causing grief or sadness.

"It's a place where we can get together, there’s no judgment, only compassion," she said.

"People can feel safe to express their grief and struggles, knowing there is pastoral support online if they really need it. It's not just for Catholics, but we do honor our Catholic traditions, such as 'Lectio Divina' and prayers like the rosary.

"For non-Catholics who join us, we explain what those traditions are. I want this to be an amazing platform that will bring people together to heal their pain through prayer and community.”

Earlier this year, Archbishop Anthony Fisher praised the Sakr and Abdallah families in a TV documentary titled "In the Blink of an Eye.”

"They are inspirational ambassadors of Jesus Christ, showing us all the power of God's grace to help us do extraordinary things in the most terrible of circumstances," Archbishop Fisher said.