HE’S been front-and-centre for thousands of young people, ready and willing to unpack the depth of the Word of God, rarely standing still to do so.
He’s filmed popular YouTube videos using drones and up-close-and-personal accounts of his dynamic ministry here and abroad as a priest of Sandhurst diocese, Victoria, leader of the Stronger Youth movement, musician, author and self-confessed introvert.
He’s shared his personal struggle of drug addiction, sin and isolation, all the while, buoyed by the constant and prayerful support of his mum who “never gave up” on her son’s healing and revelation of what God could make possible.
Beyond holding a captive live crowd, reaching out to all ages online and in print, leading young people to themselves rise up as leaders and responding to local, interstate and overseas opportunities for mission, Fr Rob Galea has his sights set on something new.
In fact, several original, faith-inspiring opportunities are in the pipeline.
“I’ve been trying to focus more on evangelisation,” he said in a less frantic moment on September 28 and before a keynote address to 1000-plus youth at the Ignite Conference in Brisbane.
“I’ve written a book, started the second one and have a film deal, a Hollywood movie, that’s in pre-production.”
A closer-to-home initiative titled Encounter, focusing on inspiring faith-sharing within Catholic school curriculum, was a story itching to be told.
“I want to focus on teachers and educators,” the Maltese-born Australian priest said.
“I want to help them engage with the younger generation.”
The intuitive priest said he had seen “a lot of fear” from teachers who were “afraid to engage” with youth and, from this perspective, Encounter was born.
“We, as the Catholic Church in Australia, have such a wonderful education system,” Fr Galea said.
“We spend a lot of time trying to reach out to people when we have such opportunity, through the Catholic education system, to reach young people.
“Schools are doing an amazing job but there’s so much more that can be done so students can encounter the faith.”
Fr Galea desires young people, through Encounter, to “not only hear about” the Catholic faith but also “experience it … to know the person of Jesus”.
He was disheartened, before Encounter was born, with a teenager’s recounting of a religion lesson.
“One of our youth came to me and said, ‘Fr Rob, we just had a teaching on the Eucharist and the teacher started off saying, I don’t believe in this rubbish but I have to teach it to you’,” Fr Galea said.
“The thing is, I feel sorry for the teachers who have to teach something that they think is ridiculous.
“At the end of the day, it’s really hard for teachers.
“It’s hard because (teaching religion) requires them to open their heart and talk to students about their life, faith, struggles and doubts, and the fact that they don’t have all the answers.
“After this I wondered, ‘What if we could develop a resource by people who actually do believe and are ready to lay down their lives for that?’”
While still in the planning stage, a trial program for Encounter is being offered in Sandhurst diocese with content “in 10-minute increments for the beginning, middle or end of a religion lesson”.
The dream is to offer “30-minute programs exactly in line with the curriculum of each diocese … only working if the Catholic Education offices are on board”.
“It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ program,” Fr Galea said.
“Just because it works for the Sandhurst diocese doesn’t mean it will work for the Brisbane archdiocese, for example.
“We have to work together to adapt it in line with the curriculum.
“Encounter is a big project with a lot of investment and time needed.”
Fr Galea said the key ingredient of Encounter was “videos with an aspect of encounter” where “teachers can be free to not say anything at all”.
Asked if, along the way, teachers could potentially be evangelised, Fr Galea was overwhelmingly positive.
Another positive of the Encounter experience is “training for teachers” up to six times a year.
Reach to students, too, beyond the classroom has also been considered with plans for young people who have worked through the program to be invited to a live, faith-sharing event “to reinforce the curriculum”.
Fr Galea said Encounter would work differently in different dioceses and in “putting it all together” seeks “the right people”.
“The challenge is to communicate that which is an experience,” he said.
“It’s one thing to communicate something that’s academic because you can reason it out.
“(But) faith is not reasonable, it’s of the heart.”
The visionary priest encouraged teachers and others who might be interested in the Encounter project to contact him via the website www.frgministry.com
On the website are links to Encounter videos and lesson plans relating to addiction, gossip, pornography and modesty, and Lenten themes of almsgiving, forgiveness and fasting, to name a few.
Of being at the Ignite Conference, Fr Galea said he was “inspired”.
“People (at Ignite) are visionary even though everything around them seems to be falling apart,” he said on September 28.
“Seeing them (Ignite leaders) hold onto the vision of evangelisation, is inspiring.”
At the evening keynote address he inspired young people to “choose their chains”.
“So often we are chained through sin and circumstances,” he said.
“Saint Paul praised God through his chains and he became a witness; his life is something we are talking about some 2000 years later.
“If we hand over our chains to God, He can bring us to a place of grace.”
Perhaps Fr Galea’s most poignant comments came in our interview where he was his most vulnerable.
“The next five years of my life are going to be incredible,” he said.
“There’s no time for rest. There are souls being lost. There are souls on the edge of the cliff and I’m not afraid to go there.”
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