Reginald Foster came from a family of plumbers. He knew what he wanted to do with his life at an early age: to become a priest and study Latin. It was Foster who taught Latin to Popes of the Roman Catholic church.
Father Foster was a man of modest tastes but unparalleled dedication. He slept on the floor. He dressed in plumber’s clothes. He refused to accept gifts. But his true calling was Latin. He taught 10 Latin courses per year in addition to his regular duties at the Vatican. He was fired from the University because he did not require students to pay for his classes. He subsequently started his own Latin Academy.
He was an irreverent teacher who often angered the church with his satire. He went against established methods of teaching Latin. His focus was on the practical understanding of Latin rather than formal grammatical structure. His classes were often large (100+ students). But even in these large classes, he knew every student by name and supported their individual development with his feedback.
In 2020, he was a victim of COVID-19 as the virus ravaged Italy. He returned to the U.S. for treatment. Even though his own health was fragile, he began teaching Latin classes at the University of Milwaukee as well as in a nursing home. He died on Christmas Day 2020 at the age of 81.
One of life’s mysteries is the origin of dedication in individuals. What was the source of Father Foster’s dedication to the Latin language? For him, it came early in life. For others, dedication may result from unfolding life experiences. We do know that dedication is not triggered by tangible rewards. You can’t generate dedication by paying people. It has to come from within. We also know that dedication is driven by sharing. Father Foster loved sharing Latin with others. Not all dedication involves teaching. In some, dedication is simply being a role model for others.
Dedication can be an obsession and difficult to live with. There is often a conflict between a person’s dedication and other responsibilities – especially families. Tolerance of an individual’s dedication can often be a challenge as the Vatican experienced with Father Foster.
How does one discover their dedication? There is certainly no test or marker. There is often no “aha” moment. You know you have found your dedication when you simply can no longer accept good enough.
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“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” – Vince Lombardi