COMBONI THAT DAY

In Pace Christi

Fr. Biancalana Angelo

Born: 05/08/1931
Luogo di Nascita: Capannori/I

Voti temporanei: 09/09/1951
Voti perpetui: 09/09/1957
Ordinazione: 25/05/1958

Date of Death: 11/06/2017
Place of Death: La Grange Park (USA)

Fr. Angelo Biancalana was born in the little town of Capannori, near Lucca in Italy on August 5, 1931. He joined the nearby Comboni Missionary seminary at a young age, moved on to Brescia and then back to his native Tuscany for his novitiate training near Florence, where he made his first profession in 1951. By then, part of his family had been migrating to the United States, settling in the Chicago area. In that same year, 1951, Angelo, together with his younger brother and sister, crossed the ocean, soon followed by their mother, Rosa. Their father had died years earlier.

The young scholastic studied theology in Cincinnati and was ordained by Comboni Bishop Angelo Barbisotti of Esmeraldas, Ecuador, on May 25, 1958, in the chapel of Sacred Heart Seminary.

His first mission assignment was to the Mission of San Antonio de Pala, serving Native Americans in the diocese of San Diego, Cal. He spent two years there.

In 1960 he was called back to Cincinnati to run the vocation program of the province in the East and Midwest of the country. For the next five years he crisscrossed the country in search of future missionaries. Sacred Heart Seminary stayed open and functioning in great part thanks to his tireless work in promoting the Comboni vocation.

In 1965 Fr. Angelo finally fulfilled his desire to go to Africa. He was assigned to the province of Uganda where he taught in the major seminary of Gulu and later was engaged in pastoral work in Palabek.

By mid-1970 He was back in the USA doing vocation ministry out of Cincinnati, Ohio, until he was called back to Uganda once again as a seminary professor in 1974.

In 1976, Fr. Biancalana was elected provincial of Uganda, a post he held for the next six years, including the terrible years of the civil war under Idi Amin and during the violence that followed. The experience left indelible marks in his life. He had this to say about it: “In the midst of all this suffering, our confreres stayed close to the people, sharing their dangers and sufferings. From the experience of those six years, spent shoulder to shoulder with my confreres I learned more than I could have ever learned from books about the true meaning of the Comboni charism. I came back from Uganda totally destroyed.”

Having survived the ordeal, Fr. Angelo returned to the United States in 1981 and served mostly in the field of mission promotion in the Chicago area for almost ten years. It was during that time that, with his encouragement and support, the La Grange Park Center was opened and entrusted to his care.

By the late 1980s Fr. Angelo pioneered the idea of sharing the Comboni charism with dedicated lay people. By 1994 the dream had already taken concrete shape. In that year, the first group of Comboni Lay Missionaries left the mission center of La Grange Park for mission assignments in Uganda. Since then, close to 60 CLM have passed through the formation stage and served in mission lands, including families with children and many professional people. It was Fr. Angelo’s jewel. This became evident at his funeral when several of the early CLM members and past directors came from as far as Florida and Canada to bid him good-bye.

In 1997, Fr. Angelo handed the program over to a new director and took a sabbatical that wanted to include a preparation for a possible ministry among the Hispanics in the future.

The remaining years were spent doing mission promotion work out of La Grange Park, Ill., and of the Comboni Mission Center of Covina, Cal. He left Covina for the last time in 2011 and he was currently a retired member of the Comboni Mission Center community of La Grange Park.

Fr. Angelo Biancalana died in the early hours of Sunday, June 11. He will be remembered for his infectious missionary zeal, his easy going friendship, his love for the missions and for the poorest of God’s children. He was an optimist and an idealist and no stranger to life’s sufferings, in the style of St. Daniel Comboni. (Fr. Joseph Bragotti, mccj)