Fr. Reginald Thomas Foster Obituary
Fr. Reginald Thomas Foster, OCD, 81, member of the Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars and papal Latinist for four popes, died shortly after midnight on Christmas, December 25, at St Anne's Home in Milwaukee. Fr. Reginald was preceded in death by his parents Gordon and Margaret (Fleischmann) Foster of Milwaukee and by his brother John and his sister Susan (Wolf). He is survived by his nephews Thomas Strobel, Simon Wolf, and Jude Wolf and by many grandnephews and grandnieces, and by the Discalced Carmelite Friars with whom he lived and served for more than 62 years (more than 46 of those years studying or working in Rome).
Fr. Reginald attended St. Francis Minor Seminary in Milwaukee for two years (1953-1955) and three years at St. Joseph’s Minor Seminary in Peterborough, NH (1955-1958) before entering the Discalced Carmelite novitiate at Brookline, MA in August 1958, making first profession of vows on August 15, 1959. He completed philosophy studies at Holy Hill during 1959-1962, before leaving for Rome to study theology at the Teresianum, the Order’s International College. He was ordained priest in Rome on April 17, 1966.
In 1969 (when barely 30 years old) he was recognized for his mastery of Latin, and his doctoral studies interrupted, when he was called upon suddenly to take the position of one of the pope’s two principle Latinists. He worked at the Latin Language office of the Vatican Secretariat of State for forty years. In addition to his full-time translation work there, beginning in 1974 he dedicated himself passionately to teaching Latin every day, including nearly thirty years at the Pontifical Gregorian University where he would offer five year-long courses or “experiences” in Latin each year. In 1985, he instituted a Latin summer school which met daily for eight weeks. In 2009, following a grave illness and heart trouble that nearly killed him, he returned to Wisconsin to convalesce and continued teaching students tirelessly, even while residing at St. Clare’s Terrace and then St. Anne’s Home. In these past months of pandemic, Fr. Reginald faithfully continued his classes several hours daily to students throughout the world by means of video conferencing.
In 2010, the University of Notre Dame awarded him an honorary doctorate for his contribution to Latin studies. And in 2015, with Fr. Daniel McCarthy, OSB, Fr. Reginald co-authored the first of five volumes, Latinitatis Corpus: The Body of Latin (CUA Press), which seeks to present systematically a coherent outline of Fr. Reginald’s unique method of teaching Latin. The forthcoming second volume completes Fr. Reginald’s doctoral studies on the letters of Cicero, previously interrupted by his service in the Vatican.
On account of the current restrictions due to the pandemic, the funeral Mass and burial will be held privately, with only the Discalced Carmelite community and family members in attendance. A memorial Mass and celebration of Fr. Reginald’s life is expected to be planned at a later time in the year when friends, colleagues and students are again free to travel and to congregate safely in larger crowds.
Memorials to the “Discalced Carmelite Friars’ Student Fund” at 1525 Carmel Road, Hubertus, WI 53033 would be appreciated.