ABIDING by the motto to save for rainy days helped Uralla accountant Robert Locke turn a Catholic charity into a financial services group with more than $300 million investments.
On August 16, the church honoured Mr Locke's tireless accounting work, along with his charitable actions, by investing him with a pontifical order from Rome.
Mr Locke was bestowed the honour, granted by Pope Francis, at a special mass in the Catholic Church in Armidale.
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He become one of just six worshippers in the Armidale diocese to be a Knight of the Order of Saint Gregory the Great.
"This is a tremendous honour, however, my involvement over the years is but a tiny drop in a massive ocean of personal sacrifices and contributions to church history and tradition by millions of people over thousands of years," Mr Locke said.
His financial and business assistance to the church began in the 1980s while serving as a trainee accountant with then Armidale firm, Murray and Allen.
It was Mr Locke's first job after leaving De La Salle College (where he met his wife, Maureen O'Brien, who was a student at St Ursulas College).
"Des Murray approached me to become involved in the Armidale Diocesan Investment Fund, which had not long been established," Mr Locke said.
He had shown due diligence in the office by helping prepare pays for the teachers in the diocese's 30 Catholic schools.
"We would deliver the pile of cheques to the Catholic Education Office in Dangar Street; Friar Flood would sign every cheque and then they would be mailed off to the school, hopefully in time for the next pay day."
The fledgling investment fund was set up, with the help of Des Murray, to offer cheap loans to schools and parishes in the diocese.
Over the years the fund has invested more than $42 million back into the community, supporting countless families, charities and schools.
Nearly 50 years after its inception the fund holds more than $300 million invested funds, with a capital base of over $35 million.
Mr Locke has overseen the fund's maturity, as well as being a trustee and administrator of the diocesan super fund.
Other contributions given by Mr Locke over his years of service to the church include helping establish The Good Shepherd Fellowship, a group that encourages and supports youths in their faith.
The fellowship ran the annual Discovery Youth Camp, which would often convene on the shores of Lake Keepit.
Above all, Mr Locke said he had kept to his spiritual belief.
"The church has many failings, but the church consists of a lot of human beings, none of whom are perfect," he said.
"So we must look beyond the person, to the founder, Jesus Christ; the truth doesn't change."
Monsignor Edward Wilkes said he was delighted the Pope had accepted Bishop Michael Kennedy's nomination of Mr Locke for the papal honour.
"It is a justly deserved honour for someone who has made a large contribution to the life of the church in the diocese," Monsignor Wilkes said.
The last awardee from the diocese was Karl Schmude, in 2017.
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