People hear when the heart sings

At first look, you might not think there is much in common between Maltese-born Father Rob Galea and the 1,200 students at All Saints’ College, Maitland.

Affectionately known as “the pop star priest”, Fr Galea has released six albums,
written an autobiography, and performed in front of millions of fans all over the globe, including two popes. A Hollywood film about his life is in pre-production.

Yet as he shared his story and music to a sold-out concert, the connection between himself and the young people of our community was undeniable.

Fr Galea puts this down to two simple things: the power of faith, and music.

“I think music is the language of the heart, so prayer is ultimately a heart-to-heart with God,” he says.

“Sometimes words fall short of our expression towards God, and even within ourselves, so I think music is something powerful that allows us to connect with something beyond ourselves.”

Fr Galea has made it his mission to share his gifts with the world and is determined to use his voice to give hope to the next generation.

“I’m grateful that I have the chance to influence people where they’re at an age where they’re impressionable,” he says of his unique ability to reach people.

“Our young people are just bombarded with the sense that they need to perform, that they need to be something on social media. So just to be in a place where you can remind them they are loved unconditionally, is a very privileged place.”

Part of what makes Fr Galea so relatable is that he makes it no secret his life was not always so charmed. While most teenagers are learning Shakespeare and grappling with algebra, at just 17 years old a lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, parties, and crime had left Fr Galea staring down the barrel.

During his darkest hours, where anxiety and depression had him on the brink of suicide, music and a local Catholic youth group were his saving grace. Witnessing the joy of people who loved and believed in Christ reignited his own faith.

“I only started playing guitar when I was 17 years old,” Fr Galea says. “My mother introduced me to it. She used to play music in her little prayer group, and she taught me to play a few chords. I still sing with her now.”

In stark contrast to his teenage years, by age 21 Fr Galea had entered the seminary, and he is now serving as an ordained priest in the Sandhurst diocese, Victoria. He also founded his own not-for-profit Catholic organisation, FRG Ministry, which aims to bring the love of Jesus and his message of hope to people of all ages across the world.

“I don’t consider myself an intellectual, or trying to convince people about the faith,” he says. “It’s about allowing myself to be vulnerable, and allowing them to see my heart, which is in love with God and in love with people.

“People see authenticity, people see the heart being expressed, as opposed to someone trying to convince them to believe in something so difficult. When you speak from the heart, there is an automatic connection, because we are heart people who are desperate to connect.”

It was this vulnerability and authenticity that prompted ACTiv8 Youth Coordinator, Rebecca Piefke, to reach out to Fr Galea and ask him to run workshops for students attending All Saints’ College.

“He managed to turn his mess into a message,” Ms Piefke says. “It’s rare that we hear so openly and honestly from someone about their struggles with life and their faith.”

Speaking to students ranging from Year 7 to Year 12, Fr Galea shared his own mental health battles and reminded them that no matter how difficult things may seem, there’s always a way out.

“Students were crying as they were so touched by his message,” Ms Piefke says. “It was less of a concert and more of a spiritual retreat.”

ACTiv8 Chisolm Youth Ministry shares Fr Galea’s belief in the power of music, with a youth ministry band playing modern music every Sunday.

“As we all know, getting young people passionate about their faith can be quite
challenging,” Ms Piefke says. “Music is a wonderful communication tool and helps keep the kids’ attention.”

Fr Galea is a firm believer that faith is caught, not taught. It’s safe to say that after his visit to All Saints’ College, the students are definitely feeling inspired.

“There’s a beautiful sense that God is allowing me to be used to help others,” he
says. “Seeing these kids connect in the moment is something I also appreciate. It’s a moment of great gratitude.”

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