CATHOLIC priest Father Rob Galea was cornered.
"A gang was looking for me to kill me," Father Galea, 39, said of the drug dealers.
"I ended up in a place where I had nowhere to turn. I had to either turn to a community, turn to God or end my own life. I was cornered."
Father Galea had run away from home at 14, become addicted to alcohol and drugs and was involved in violence and theft. He was so desperate to be accepted, he said, that he compromised who he was.
By 16, he had developed severe depression and anxiety and was suicidal.
"Even though I slammed the door to my parents and family... they were there, I just could not see it because I did not think they'd understand or care," he said.
IN NEWS TODAY:
- COVID sewage testing: so far, so good
- Chinese influence claims 'xenophobic': Port of Newcastle
- Man pinned under bus in depot accident
- TOOHEYS NEWS: How Nathan Ross went from miner to Knight
- 'Start with bail': call for action after Cessnock death in custody
- Citizenship ceremonies return to Newcastle after pandemic halt
After reconnecting with his family and community and seeking professional help, his life began to change.
"Where everyone else ended and couldn't reach, there was always God there with me and guiding me and giving me strength and dignity and hope."
Father Galea shared his story and faith with 1200 students at All Saints College at Maitland this week and also performed a free concert on Thursday.
"One of the things I do is help young people understand their dignity and hope," he said.
"I know the depth of the darkness I was in, the desperation I was in.
"As a fellow human being I cannot sit still, it's an injustice for me, I want to stand up against the injustice of people living in a place of desperation where they have no sense of hope and purpose in their life."
Father Galea said people's lives were presented as perfect and extraordinary, but young people needed to understand they were loved unconditionally when ordinary too.
"I use my story and different methods to try and help people understand that it's okay to be messed up, but understand you're loved, that there's always help and there's always a future in your mess.
"I bring God into it, that God is able to take our mess and turn it into a message."
Maltese born Father Galea was a signed artist performing in Italy when he met a priest "so full of life" he inspired him to consider the vocation.
After three years in a seminary he took a gap year in Victoria, in 2007.
"A lot of the work for the church here is not within the church walls, but it's outside and that connected with me," he said.
"It was like I was born for this, I was born to reach out to people outside of the church walls.
"Bring them in, yes sometimes, but I can't fit in the church walls as a priest, that's never been my vocation."
Father Galea is not assigned to a parish, but runs a charity called FRG Ministry.
He was a contestant on the X Factor in 2015, released a book in 2018 and continues to record music to help convey his message.
He is signed to GIA Publications, has sung for two Popes and in front of crowds of more than one million people.
A film about his life is in pre-production.
"I'm not a popstar, I'm not a musician, I don't care for that to be honest, I'm an introvert and would much rather be at home, but I do it... because this is our mandate, this is our call."
Our journalists work hard to provide local, up-to-date news to the community. This is how you can continue to access our trusted content: