'Greatest Latinists of the Church since the Renaissance': Priest from Milwaukee who worked for multiple popes dies at 81

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Father Reginald Foster, a papal Latinist for four popes from Milwaukee, died shortly after midnight on December 25. 

The 81-year-old was also a member of the Washington Province of Discalced Carmelite Friars. 

He spent more than 46 years studying or working in Rome. 

He became a priest in 1966. According to his obituary, when he was barely 30 years old, he was recognized for his mastery of Latin, when he was called upon 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 40 years. 

In addition to that work, in 1974, he taught Latin every day, including nearly 30 years at the Pontifical Gregorian University. 

In 2009, he returned to Wisconsin. 

He was featured in several CBS 58 stories, including one in 2018 when he was offering Latin lessons for free at a Milwaukee nursing home. 

"Do you see what I'm sitting on? My butt. If you sit on your butt and study Latin as long as I have you'll be a master too," he said at the time. 

"He was one of these pinnacles in history that come every once and awhile," said Father Daniel McCarthy, who learned from and worked with Father Foster. 

During the pandemic, Foster continued teaching to students throughout the world by video conference, his obituary said. 

He was living at St Anne's Home in Milwaukee.

Church officials say he contracted COVID-19. The Medical Examiner’s Office says his immediate cause of death was Hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. 

In a statement, the Discalced Carmelite Friars said:

"We Discalced Carmelite Friars at Holy Hill and St. Florian’s in Milwaukee are proud and grateful for Fr. Reginald’s extraordinary contribution to the Church in service of the Holy See, but also for his immeasurable contribution to the academic world in the study and promotion of the Latin language. Fr. Reginald was truly “original," but his sincerity and genuine passion for what he considered most important in life attracted many others to him. His personal genius and extraordinary intelligence were truly awe inspiring. Even as long as he lived and worked in Rome, he always remained “close to his Wisconsin roots” and he always valued his ties to Holy Hill(where his parents were also married in 1930) and to his Carmelite community back in the States. His legacy as one of the greatest Latinists of the Church since the Renaissance and as a passionate educator to countless students will long endure for years to come."
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