Over Thursday and Friday of last week, I had the great privilege of attending and celebrating the parish events created by Fr Rob Galea’s visit to Taree. The parish of Taree is to be congratulated on its successful youth ministry effort, and in particular, Fr George and Jan Swift have given up much time and energy in co-ordinating and organising this significant event. I was humbled by a comment by Jan that this was all done “for our young” – alluding to the teenagers and young adults who identify as Catholics in the Taree area. I believe that this shows a great love and a genuine desire to see the youth in the parish grow and develop into mature members of the parish family. And in this way, our family of faith can continue to grow, to share and to support each of its members over the span of their lives.
Fr Rob Galea is a young, trendy singer/songwriter from Malta who was ordained as a Catholic priest in 2010 within the Sandhurst Diocese in Victoria. Over the thirty hours that I saw Fr Rob minister with children, teenagers, adults, parents and grandparents, it is obvious that this young priest has a real gift in being able to communicate God’s love to the people he meets. He does this through story, word and music.
At the parish Welcome Dinner for Fr Rob Galea’s visit, held on Thursday 2nd June at St Mary’s parish hall in Taree, Fr Rob began by introducing himself and explaining why he does what he does. Fr Rob explains that his efforts in ministry to young people involve trying to connect with them through “the ordinary” things of this world, (ie social media and pop culture, as well as his music) in order to help them experience something of “the extraordinary” (ie God, and God’s love for each one of us). Fr Rob has identified that those who are most desperate for God often can’t perceive themselves as being able to connect with the extraordinary, so Fr Rob starts with the ordinary things of this world that they can connect with. Through his talents in singing and playing the guitar, Fr Rob noticed that it was through his music that he could help others to experience a genuine hope in their lives, and this is what inspires Fr Rob to keep doing what he does.
Hope was a recurring theme over the two days that Fr Rob was in Taree. In particular, through sharing his own story of the difficult and low moments of his teenage years, Fr Rob tries to provide a sense of hope for those young people who might be suffering deeply in their own lives.
One of the most delightful parts of Fr Rob Galea’s visit to Taree was when the students in Years 7, 8, and 9 at St Clare’s Taree were sponsored by the school to attend Fr Rob’s concert in person. Mr Peter Nicholls (Principal of St Clare’s) and the school executive have put great faith in Fr Rob by covering the costs associated with the concert, and because of this, many of the young people of St Clare’s were able to experience the practice of their faith in a surprisingly new and vibrant way. The richness of this gift can never really be measured. The students who attended seemed to enjoy their time with Fr Rob as they listened to his story, sang some songs, and asked him many questions. At the end of the concert, all the students were invited by Ministry Co-ordinator, Denise Ryan, to participate in praying a St Clare’s blessing over Fr Rob – and everyone who was present did so. These students would not have had this opportunity without the school’s generous support, and on behalf of a faith community longing to see its young people engaged in the practice of their faith, I thank you.
I have come away from these days, personally, with a renewed energy and joy in being a young person of faith who has opportunities to express my faith through singing at the top of my lungs, laughing out loud, and dancing around with my friends. It is refreshing to act young and be young and to know that I am still participating in my Catholic community’s act of faith.
Melissa Fenech is a Family Community Faith Coordinator, Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.