WHEN Fr Rob Galea auditioned for the X-Factor television program in 2015 he captured the interest of the nation. Since then the online audience following his catechesis has grown exponentially. But what brought the Maltese-born priest to ordination and who is he? Journalist Selina Venier met up with Fr Galea at last monthís Ignite Conference to find out
FR Rob Galea appears at home on stage, but the once “rebellious teenager” who speaks Gospel truths to a broad national and international audience, in person and through online catechesis, admitted he’s “introverted and likes to hide”.
“I’m a shy person,” he said between workshops on September 23.
“I come on stage and people think they know me but that’s not the real me. I’m reflective in my life. I’m energetic but that’s not where I find peace.”
With three major commitments in his priestly life, first to his parish in Bendigo, Victoria, then to the diocese’s Strong Youth ministry and to national and international engagements where he’s booked “two years in advance”, the musician and songwriter still finds time for people.
“A lot of my time is spent with people one-on-one,” he said.
“(And) I look after a friend of mine (who’s) dying of cancer. I’m his primary carer.”
Fr Galea said “it angers people” that he “doesn’t fit into the box” of what they perceive priesthood should be, although he said “it also inspires”.
“At the end of the day I have to be true to myself,” Fr Galea said.
“Being an inspiration to others is a by-product of my authenticity before God.”
Marking six years of ordination this November, the likeable pastor who “prefers to be innocuous and quiet” said he doesn’t seek out fame but is encouraged when people are inspired to grow closer to God through his teachings and music.
Delving into his upbringing and priestly discernment also brought other truths to light.
Anne and Paul Galea are the faith-filled parents they were called to be.
“We didn’t have a dishwasher and I grew up watching my mother washing the plates,” Fr Galea said.
“She’d stop and talk to God, wash the plates and stop and talk to God. I was brought up to know the constant presence of God.”
While “a life of rebellion as a teenager” followed, Fr Galea came through addiction, depression, sadness and anxiety, he said.
At 16 years of age he had “a conversion experience” where “new joy, new hope and new purpose for living” was found.
Following this Fr Galea said he was “mentored by a lay doctor” who taught him “more about loving Jesus”.
Then he met a priest in Sicily, Italy, who “was so full of love, so full of life… (and) inspired a love for the priesthood”.
“I wasn’t thinking of priesthood (at that time) but I said to God if I can be anything like Padre Giovanni (Fr John) then I would consider it.”
Fr Galea began discerning priesthood aged 21 following a four-year relationship, and jokingly refers to it as “God ruining” his plans.
He also walked away from a career in banking, finance management and marketing, for which he studied, and taking over his father’s successful business.
“God keeps His end of the deal and so much more,” Fr Galea said.
“He had my permission to ruin my plans as long as I had Him. My prayer is, ‘God, You have permission to ruin my plans’.”
The move to Australia in 2007 prompted friendship with the late Bishop Joe Grech, the sixth Bishop of Sandhurst Diocese, who “inspired a love for people”.
Fr Galea said “there was a joy and peace in saying, ‘Yes’ to God” and as a priest he’s “never been happier”.
Often without time to spare, Fr Galea said he “finds joy in structured stillness … (and) joy in doing”, even combining daily exercise with prayer.
Celebrating the final Mass of the conference Fr Galea encouraged worshippers to model sainthood in every aspect of their lives saying, “I hope I’m as much of a saint at the gym as I am in the church.”
He had four key messages for holiness during the homily including the value of a commitment to prayer and to a community of like-minded, faith-filled individuals.
“Find a community or join a youth group,” Fr Galea said.
“Surround yourself with people who believe you are a champion.”
For those unable to do so Fr Galea suggested accessing online methods of catechesis and continued contact with faith-filled friends.
Thirdly, Fr Galea spoke of the importance of constant access to the Sacraments of the Church as a “defibrillator … getting us back in sync with God”.
“Stay close to the sacraments,” he said.
“Even if you get bored, it’s okay, it doesn’t mean God isn’t there. Our hearts are meant to beat with the same heartbeat as God’s.”
Compassion for the poor and marginalised was another of his messages at the final Mass.
“Ask God to give you compassion for people worse off than you,” Fr Galea said. “When I feel sad or not good enough, I ask God to help me find someone who feels worse than me so my focus isn’t on myself.”
Throughout all his conference messages during an evening keynote address, several daytime workshops and at the final Sunday Mass, Fr Galea was relatable, honest and humble, always pointing to the power and presence of God working through him and others in the Church.
“It’s a narrow path towards holiness,” he said. “It’s not easy being a Christian but nothing will give you more joy than to share what you feel right now.
“Don’t live for yourself, live for others.”
To see and hear more from Fr Galea go to www.frrobgalea.com.