Fr Rob Galea is pulling in parishioners from across the world - to Bendigo

TUNED IN: Fr Rob Galea said his FRG Ministry's online services have experienced a ten-fold increase in use since the onset of COVID-19. Picture: DARREN HOWE
TUNED IN: Fr Rob Galea said his FRG Ministry's online services have experienced a ten-fold increase in use since the onset of COVID-19. Picture: DARREN HOWE

You might recognise the face. And now even more people will as priest Father Rob Galea is pulling parishioners from all over the world to his Bendigo ministry.

The founder of FRG Ministry, Fr Galea quit a national talent show after struggling to balance the demands of the show with pastoral commitments.

In 2015 he stepped down during the time-intensive boot camp phase of The X Factor to focus on his parish.

Now, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, that parish is growing to all parts of the world.

"We have had an online presence for six years and it's really increased in the past two years, but since March, interest has spiked ten-fold," Fr Galea said.

COVID-19 has forced people to recalibrate and seek a faith-based outlet, according to Fr Galea.

On Sunday, I sit in a chapel in Bendigo in front of a camera with 10,000 people watching and praying with me.

Fr Rob Galea

"People want to stay connected with their communities, not only with God," he said.

"Every Sunday, our live mass attracts 10,000 people who comment and share a connection with each other."

Worshippers from Tanzania to Iraq have flocked in increasing numbers to FRG Ministry's digital offering.

Fr Galea said this new age way of bringing faith to people's lives hasn't always been well received.

"At the outset, there was a lot less support for what I was doing than there is now," Fr Galea said. "People used to criticise me because I was online, saying I was just a show person.

"Those people now reach out because the virtual community is where people spend a lot of their time."

Fr Galea said his online ministry, which includes podcasts, educational resources, sermons and live music performances, was never conceived to replace churches.

"Our aim has always been to supplement what is offered already," he said.

"There will always be people who can't go to church because they are unwell or isolated. In no way does the virtual reality replace the beauty and tangibility of a community of faith."

FRG Ministry has grown beyond Fr Galea's wildest expectations.

"I'm at a place I would have never imagined," he said. "On Sunday, I sit in a chapel in Bendigo in front of a camera with 10,000 people watching and praying with me.

"How could anyone have imagined something like that?"

This story The X Factor priest pulling in parishioners first appeared on Bendigo Advertiser.