TWO days before, he was in America and it’s a reasonable guess where he’ll be this time next year.
The Maltese-born priest, who’s called Australia home since 2007, hit the evangelisation ground running, now engaged with an estimated 1.6 million people across the globe per year.
His podcast listeners and YouTube subscribers could well tip that figure to hundreds of thousands more.
And yet, Sandhurst diocese’s Fr Rob Galea always has time to reach the end of any event’s line of patient fans and followers, sharing reciprocated appreciation, spontaneous and authentic camaraderie and most certainly a digital record of the moment, a constant request met with a smile.
This year’s Ignite Youth Conference in Brisbane from September 26-29 was no exception and I offer to take the snapshots, to perhaps speed up the process, conscious of Fr Rob’s need for downtime and pursuit of moments of introversion before carrying on.
Reaching the line’s end, temporarily packing up his well-used guitar and endearing smile, jovial Fr Rob barely takes a breath before diving headfirst, for another consecutive year, into a bevvy of questions, continuing our conversation from last September.
Asking first about his utmost fan – his mum – the founder of FRG ministry, musician and author shares she’s well and of the upcoming holiday to be among family in his homeland.
“I’m (also) going to Rome for an ordination, so it’s just a week off and then I return to Chicago, then Vancouver,” he said.
Recalling that this time last year I’d interviewed his close friends and celebrated musicians Gary and Natasha Pinto, who at the time, were expecting their first child.
Baby Joy Pinto was born before Christmas.
“I celebrated Joy’s baptism and am also her godfather,” he said proudly.
Asking how he recalibrates his body clock and mindset when flying between continents and engagements, the self-confessed introvert simply said, “I’d say fifty per cent of the time I wake up and spend two minutes just figuring out where I am.”
Waking up in Brisbane archdiocese for Ignite on the day of our conversation, September 27, Fr Rob gave an inspiring workshop about overcoming life’s challenges through faith and continued to serve at the conference in various ways including a heart-to-heart talk with a 1200-strong audience and Ignite Youth director Kym Keady and leading Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament the following day and night.
Of the workshop titled, “I Can’t Even”, he said past and present personal experiences helped preparations.
“I talked about being able to survive and thrive with depression, anxiety and stress because I myself have been through and am still going through depression, anxiety and stress,” Fr Rob said.
“Sometimes we can think that God can not use us throughout our darkness and struggles but I actually think if we handle it the right way, we have the right pillars, the right support, the right prayer-life, the right mind – the mind of Christ – we see that darkness becomes an instrument to reach out to people.”
Fr Rob said talking about suffering aids more than the audience.
“The impact of sharing, on the life of the person who is suffering from anxiety and stress, is profound,” he said.
“If the person who’s suffering can still function and get up every day, loving Jesus, then what a powerful witness that is.”
Calling to mind the suffering of Jesus Christ, the passionate pastor made a significant link.
“Jesus himself went to Gethsemane and still had to function, he had to go to the cross,” Fr Rob said.
“This was the hardest point of his ministry and his mess became his message.
“The anxiety, stress and the suffering became the glory.
“It’s the same in our lives, if we set the right pillars in our lives.”
The “pillars” the former X-Factor contestant described, he himself upholds, offering the first of them – “the need for community, people around us to support us and love us”.
“The second thing is to have time out … (and this means) to exercise or lay down … to put on your make up, to have a massage and get a facial, do something to look after yourself like a holiday,” he continued.
Other positive structures were of boundary setting, Fr Rob referring to this as “to be able to say no” and yet another, of seeking out professional help.
“Professional help is something to not be afraid of,” he said, citing the assistance of those within the realm of “physical health and fitness” and mental stability.
“We need to look after our internal climate,” he said, adding, “In a place like Australia where we have almost free healthcare, it’s important not to see this help as taboo.”
The addition of the “mind of Christ” is another pillar of strength and support, Fr Rob saying these strategies, if habitual, can assist at times of faltering.
“We must keep fighting through prayer, praise and the scriptures, understanding that God has the final say, not our depression or anxiety or stress,” he said.
“I use these strategies throughout my life and then when I’m down, they’re still there.
“Don’t wait until you’re down to do that. You must build these pillars and so when you’re down, these pillars are still standing.”
Still standing and continuing to progress, since his last visit to Brisbane, is Fr Rob’s collective pursuit of an educational resource for schools, called Encounter.
A book, Breakthrough, has also been released of his life, detailing “a dark time” where, as a young adult, Fr Rob was confined by depression.
His story of purpose, spurred by attending a youth group and “being introduced to Jesus”, is in the Hollywood pipeline, currently in pre-production.
“I was approached by a Hollywood company when I was in the United States, giving a keynote at a conference, about writing a script based on my testimony,” Fr Rob said.
“It’s a lot of trust and a lot of work … (and) hopefully in 2021 they will start filming. “Fortunately I trust the producer and the director. They both love God and want to give a message of hope.”
Hope would be the key message Fr Rob, who marks 10 years of priestly ministry next year, would give to his teenage self.
“I’d speak hope to myself,” he said once asked.
“I’d say life’s going to be amazing, life’s going to be hard but keep fighting. You will impact other people and find joy.
“I would’ve given my 16-year-old self, particularly in a moment of darkness, hope.”
The hope offered by Ignite Youth, an arm of Emmanuel Community, spurs Fr Rob to familiar yet far reaching horizons.
“The work being done here is absolutely incredible, I’m so grateful to be involved,” he said, adding, “I’m booked in for next year.”