Florida recording artist to perform at World Youth Day 2023

Father Rob Galea Father Rob Galea will perform "Emmanuel Forever" with Shevin McCullough of Studio 3:16 at WYD2023 in Lisbon. | Photo courtesy of Studio 3:16

“Emmanuel forever, Jesus, may I come in? Please forgive me for prescribing my own medicine” is the opening line of the song “Emmanuel Forever,” which will be performed by Florida recording artist Shevin McCullough and Australian singer-songwriter Father Rob Galea at World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal, on Aug. 4.

The duo will perform the song live for the first time on WYD’s central stage. The song will be released on Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music after the live performance.

McCullough, a Tampa-based singer and co-founder of Studio 3:16, spoke with CNA about the inspiration behind the song and the work his studio is doing to inspire a love for the Gospel among young people in Catholic parishes across the country.

He described the song as a “fusion of hip-hop, [with a] contemporary worship vibe.”

Mutual acquaintances brought McCullough and Galea together, knowing that the two share “fiery hearts.”

The two worked on the song in their respective studios and shared feedback online. Galea shared the initial vocals and guitar, while McCullough worked to “stitch it together” to create a fusion feel of R&B and worship.

“‘Emmanuel Forever’ is about God. God is with us. And I feel like sometimes in our lives we maybe think he’s present but we don’t really know he’s present and it could be because of a difficulty, a setback, things aren’t panning out to our liking or our schedule, and the reality is God is always with us,” McCullough explained.

Shevin McCullough of Studio 3:16 will join Father Rob Galea to perform their song "Emmanuel Forever" for the first time at WYD2023 in Lisbon. Photo courtesy of Studio 3:16
Shevin McCullough of Studio 3:16 will join Father Rob Galea to perform their song "Emmanuel Forever" for the first time at WYD2023 in Lisbon. Photo courtesy of Studio 3:16

“He’s always providing. He’s always consoling. He’s always available. So that was a big part of this song, to really drive home the relevance of God’s presence in our lives,” he added.

McCoullough shared that he hopes the youth will gain a “desire to want to encounter and imitate Jesus” after hearing the song.

“It’s all about the personal relationship. That it inspires them to act, that it inspires them to get involved, to know that they’re worthy, loved, deserving, and if they’re already on that path, continue it. And if they’re not, explore it,” he said.

“That’s what I would say would be the ultimate goal if someone hears that and it gets them excited to want to continue down their faith journey or explore it,” he added. “It’s all about the encounter, the imitation, and I look at myself, it’s like, ‘All right, I’m this broken instrument. And if this broken instrument plays one note right, I want that note to point directly to Jesus.’”

While in prayer one day, McCullough reflected on why he wrote the song. He said he felt the Lord tell him, “I put this on your heart to help you realize that I am always with you, always watching, always participating, always calling you, always wanting you to encounter me … Emmanuel now leads to Emmanuel forever.”

Studio 3:16

McCoullough along with Rob Reynolds founded Studio 3:16, a supplemental resource for Catholic elementary and middle school religion classes designed to help kids develop a closer relationship with Christ. Each lesson is rooted in Scripture and shows how the Gospels relate to our everyday lives. Music also plays a big role in their learning model.

McCullough said that Studio 3:16 was created to help youth “understand why the Bible is the living word of God and not this perception of it being an outdated history book.”

“We’re both passionate about wholesome education, concerned about all the harmful media that’s just ripping up our youth,” he said. “It’s a thief. It robs them of their time, their talent, and most importantly their innocence, but we have a deep desire to reconnect them to the truth.”

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The lighthearted lessons, which resemble a sitcom, educate students through a four-step learning model — pray, watch, reflect, and apply. McCullough plays a misguided Catholic recording artist in the lesson videos who has the responsibility of writing and performing a song that shows and promotes the message of that Sunday’s Gospel reading in order for him to keep his job.

The program was released in August 2022 and has since been implemented in 40 dioceses across 26 states.

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