Don Alberto Altana (1921-1999) was born in Reggio Emilia, where he lived for most of his life. Here in 1948, he and his mentor, Don Dino Torreggiani, founded the religious family of “Servi della Chiesa” [Servants of the Church], which is a secular institute approved by Bishop Beniamino Socche. Altana was educated at the University of Bologna (Faculty of Law), at the Università Cattolica of Milan (Faculty of Letters and Philosophy), and finally at the Albinea Seminary and the Gregorian University of Rome (Faculty of Theology). He became an ordained priest in Reggio Emilia on March 19, 1949.
He was the priest of the Roma and Sinti, of inmates and the homeless, in the most marginalized parts of the city, first in San Giuseppe al Migliolungo and later in San Giovanni Bosco, a newly formed parish without a church. From 1963 to 1968, he was sent to Rome for the establishment of the San Gregorio Magno parish in the working-class quarter of Magliana. He was called back to Reggio Emilia by Don Torreggiani and appointed to head the restoration of the permanent diaconate in Italy. In 1966, he set up the first school for deacons in Baggiovara (Modena) and founded the journal “Il diaconato in Italia” [The Diaconate in Italy] (1968), later called the “Comunità del diaconato in Italia” [The Diaconate Community in Italy] (1970).
The research project based on Alberto Altana sets two objectives: first, an investigation of the figure of Altana as priest and his place in the context of the Reggio Emilia both pre- and post-Council (biography writing) and, second, an inventory and cataloguing of the source material related to Altana, which is held at the Foundation for Religious Sciences.