Taking care of God’s vineyard

Taking care of God’s vineyard

Maseru-Father Lekhooa Lekhooa, 38, sees no theological contradiction in the Catholic Church’s decision to invest in business to secure and advance what he sees as “the Lord’s interests” on earth.

It is that ideological clarity that was the driving force behind the decision by Father Lekhooa’s predecessors to invest in Sekhametsi Investment Consortium some 20 years ago.
Father Lekhooa says he finds a stunning parallel in what the Church is doing to Jesus’ illustration of the talents as recorded in the Book of Matthew Chapter 25.

When the “servant” received the five talents from his master, he invested in business and gained five more, he says.
That principle seems to guide the modern Church’s decision to invest in business in order to multiply and produce more in the Lord’s vineyard.
The OMI acquired 7 000 shares in Sekhametsi Investment Consortium when it began in 2000. Today, that investment has ballooned in value, guaranteeing happy returns for the Catholic priests.

The Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) is an arm of the Catholic Church whose mission is to preach to the poor.
Founded in 1816 by Charles-Joseph-Eugène de Mazenod, after which our very own Mazenod village is named, the OMI has stayed true to its mission over the decades.

The focus, Father Lekhooa, says is to serve the poorest of the poor in society.
But to be able to do so, the Oblates are willing to lay claim to a piece of the corporate pie by investing in business to generate funds to cater for the poor.

Among the vows the Oblates take is a vow of poverty.
Father Lekhooa says their investment in Sekhametsi was not driven by an insatiable thirst for riches or a need for personal financial security.
Instead, this was a group scheme to drive the Church’s key agenda of rolling back poverty, he says.
And the church is happy that it invested wisely.

“As the Oblates, we have sent many Basotho children to school and some as far as universities,” he says.
“Through this investment, we have been able to cater for the well-being of our members and stay true to our ministry, properly.”
He says the Church has been able to plow back what it generates through its investments to build churches, hospitals, clinics and schools throughout Lesotho.

“This investment has allowed us to bring services closer to the people.”
Father Lekhooa says they are also painfully aware that the world’s economic situation can take a sudden downturn.
That only emphasizes that we too must plan for the future because we never know what the future holds, he says.
“By investing some of our money, we are able to provide financial security for ourselves,” he says.

Father Lekhooa is quick to emphasise that these investments are not for the individuals but are for the institute.
Even during this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Oblates have stayed true to their mission by not neglecting the marginalised in society.
“With our investment in Sekhametsi we were able to exercise our duties, buying Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) for those in the front-line who are fighting the pandemic.”

Father Lekhooa joined the priesthood in 2001 and a year later he joined the Oblates where he says he was “imbued with the spirit of the Oblates”.
He says he battled a monumental crisis of conscience when he was deciding to join the priesthood while growing up in Thaba-Tseka in the late 1990’s.
“It was never an easy decision; I wanted to be closer to my family, especially my mother; I wanted to look after the family and so when I decided that I wanted to join the priesthood, that came as a major shock to my family,” he says.

His mother felt that by joining the priesthood he had abandoned them.
That tore his heart.
By taking a vow of poverty, Father Lekhooa was repudiating everything that the world has to offer in terms of material opulence.
That was a big challenge given the human soul’s insatiable quest for luxuries.

“We naturally want to own things,” he says. “But now I know whatever we get as a Church, I do not own personally. I know these do not belong to me alone, that makes me play my role freely and effectively.”
“If I am looking after the church’s property, I play my role freely. The vows of poverty and that of chastity allow me to focus on my ministry without any distractions.”

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