Father Angelo Biancalana, 85, who oversaw the Comboni Mission Center in LaGrange Park from its creation in the 1980s, died Sunday, June 11 at the Scalabrini Rehab Center in Northlake, where he had been staying. He would have turned 86 on Aug. 5.
Fr. Angelo was born in the little town of Capannori, near Lucca, Italy on August 5, 1931. He joined the nearby Comboni Missionary seminary at a young age and transferred to the United States when his family migrated to the Chicago area in 1951. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 25, 1958.
His first mission assignment was to the San Antonio de Pala Mission, serving Native Americans in the diocese of San Diego. 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.
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. By mid-1970, he was back in the U.S., doing vocation ministry out of Cincinnati, until he was called back to Uganda once again as a seminary professor in 1974.
Fr. Angelo in 1976 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.
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 10 years. It was during that time that the LaGrange Park Mission Center was opened and entrusted to his care.
By the late 1980s in the province there was serious talk about starting a group of Comboni Lay Missionaries and Fr. Angelo was asked to investigate the matter. He was moved to Montclair, New Jersey, in 1991 where the idea began to take flesh. In 1992, the roots of the future Comboni Lay Missionaries were moved back to LaGrange Park under his supervision.
In 1997, he handed the program over to a new director and took a sabbatical with preparation for a possible future Hispanic ministry.
Fr. Angelo’s remaining years were spent doing mission promotion work out of LaGrange Park and the Comboni Mission Center of Covina, California. He left Covina for the last time in 2011 and became a retired member of the Comboni Center community of LaGrange Park.
Fr. Angelo will be remembered for his infectious missionary zeal, his easygoing friendship, his love for the missions and for the poorest of God’s children.
He is survived by a brother, Sergio, and a sister, Rina, both residents of the greater Chicago area.
Visitation is on Wednesday, June 14, from 4 to 8 p.m. at St. Louise de Marillac Parish, 1144 Harrison Ave. LaGrange Park. A funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Louise on Thursday, June 15, at 11 a.m.