|LATIN EXPERT -- Carmelite Fr. Reginald Foster, who serves as the Latin secretary to Pope John Paul II, delivers a homily at Notre Dame Middle School Aug. 29. The priest, a Milwaukee native, told students that education is a key that opens doors to the world. (Photo of Carmelite Fr. Reginald Foster delivering homily at Notre Dame Middle School by Sam Lucero)|
MILWAUKEE -- Carmelite Fr. Reginald Foster delivered a hopeful message to the young women at Notre Dame Middle School Aug. 29: study hard and you can go places.
He should know. Foster, a Milwaukee native who was taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame at the former St. Ann School on the city's north side, began studying Latin at age 13 while attending St. Francis Minor Seminary, now St. Thomas More High School. Today, he is a world-class expert on the Latin language and serves as the Latin secretary to Pope John Paul II.
As the pope's "Latinist," Foster translates papal documents into Latin as well as writing them. One example of the work Foster does for the pope is the papal letter appointing Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan as Milwaukee's 10th archbishop. "I wrote that myself in June," Foster told about 78 students and their teachers. Being from Milwaukee, he said he took the initiative of using unusually endearing language to describe "the beauties of the city of Milwaukee."
The Carmelite priest celebrated Mass for the student body, and following Mass he described his work at the Vatican and answered students' questions. He told the group that he was sent to Rome by his religious order to continue his Latin studies. "After my ordination I wanted to go on and get a degree in Latin, which I never did," he said.
In 1969, his first year of Latin studies, the Latinist for Pope Paul VI became very ill and Foster was asked to take over. "I was 29 and I became the pope's Latinist," stated Foster. "That's what I've been doing ever since."
Some four years later, Foster started a Latin school in Rome which continues today. Each year the priest welcomes several hundred Latin studies students from around the globe. "Next week we will start a new school year," he said.
Foster told the Notre Dame students that Latin "is most of my life and my love," adding that Latin is the first language spoken in his office.
In an interview, Foster told the Catholic Herald that he returns home to Milwaukee every year to visit his sister Susan Wolf, who is a member of Our Lady of Good Hope Parish. He also visits his former teachers, the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who are now retired and live at Notre Dame of Elm Grove, and takes them out for pizza.
Foster arrived in Milwaukee the day of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan's installation, but not early enough to attend the event. Instead, he gathered with many of the priests afterward who have been his Latin students. "I was happy to meet about a half-dozen of my students. We had like a reunion on the stairs of St. John's Cathedral."
The Milwaukee native said Dolan seems to be a good fit for Milwaukee. "He's a doll. He's a nice man, so exuberant." Foster lives at a Carmelite monastery in Rome. He said there are about 25 religious men and women in Rome who are Milwaukee natives.
Copyright © 2002 by Catholic Press Apostolate, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
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