Father Edward M. Foster, a longtime lakes area Catholic priest who retired in 2003 and returned to Ireland, died Nov. 10 in Ireland.
Foster served at Immaculate Heart in Crosslake and St. Emily in Emily for 25 years, and at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Pine River for 15 years.
Most recently, Father Foster lived in Crosshaven, County Cork, Ireland.
He was associate pastor at St. Francis Catholic Church in Brainerd from 1951-57. He served at Immaculate Heart and St. Emily from 1960-85, and Our Lady of Lourdes from 1988-2003.
Mary Hagen, Immaculate Heart business manager, said Foster was the pastor there when the summer church was built in 1971 to accommodate the huge tourist population. He also had a rectory built and moved there in 1962.
When Hagen was in high school, Foster learned she could type and had her type address labels for envelopes one Saturday morning.
“He said, ‘One day you’ll be the church secretary.’ I’ve been here for 26 years,” Hagen said.
Helen Fraser of Crosslake was president of the Altar Society (now the Council of Catholic Women) when Foster served in Crosslake. While paging through her scrapbook she recalled all that Foster did while serving in Crosslake, including spearheading the African Well Project to raise funds to dig wells in the African desert.
He also helped start Saturday night Mass in the United States by petitioning Rome, which allowed such services at tourist parishes in 1967 to handle the influx of parishioners.
“He was pretty influential,” Fraser said, noting he had a column called “This Is What I Think” published in local newspapers.
“He was always out to help the world,” Fraser said, noting Foster also accepted donations to send to help the Ethiopian crisis. His parish supported a missionary in Africa as well.
According to a July 1985 story in the Country Echo, his outreach to tourists and summer residents strengthened through the years, and Foster estimated that he served more than a million people in his 25 years.
He called his tourist congregation the “anonymous apostolate.”
Serving in a tourist area, Foster compared it to a “fast food church” in which quick but meaningful relationships developed, that story said.
“Some people saw him as stiff, but he could have a sense of humor,” Fraser said.