​Inspiring us with his faith, vision, leadership, and attention to detail for 65 years of ministry

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Inspiring us with his faith, vision, leadership, and attention to detail for 65 years of ministry

I have known and been privileged to work alongside of Bishop Yanta for over 64 years and have appreciated his spirituality, charisma, leadership skills, executive skills, memory and attention to detail. I first met John W. Yanta in 1957 when he was assistant pastor at St. Ann’s Church in San Antonio and very actively involved in the Catholic Youth Organization sports program, which he quickly transformed into an evangelization/sports program. My entire family came to know him as Father John.

My next memory is in the early 60’s and Father John’s role in the War on Poverty when he recruited me and several others to attend a San Antonio organizational meeting to decide the grant recipient for the federal funds. The political and community leadership wanted that to be the Community Welfare Council, with the funds to be distributed to their agencies. Instead, the community representatives, including those of us recruited by Father John, were able to take control of the meeting and voted to create a new non-profit headed up by Pepe Lucero, with a local board that intended to truly help the targeted poverty areas of the westside and its citizens.

One outcome was the funding of the San Antonio Neighborhood Youth Organization (SANYO), headed up by Father John, who recruited leadership from the community, and by the force of his personality and attention to detail, was able to develop SANYO into the premier empowerment project for minorities in the United States. Several of his SANYO directors went on to play influential roles in the city.

I next observed Father John as moderator of the Archdiocesan Council of Catholic Men (ACCM), and when I was ACCM president, his advice and counsel were invaluable. He was then designated as the head of the Better World Movement Program in the archdiocese and I was his chairman. We traveled throughout the archdiocese and held spiritual development meetings in most parishes.

I observed Father John’s determination to follow Christ when he would regularly pray in front of a Planned Parenthood abortion facility. Once, he was arrested and sentenced for disturbing the peace by Judge Bonnie Reid, who lost her next election.

In 1994, Father John W. Yanta was ordained as the auxiliary Bishop of San Antonio by Archbishop Patrick Flores in the presence of Detroit Cardinal Adam Maida in Panna Maria, before a multitude of 27 bishops, many monsignors, priests, religious and laity, as well as a crowd of 4,000 in an outdoor Mass. The San Antonio Archdiocese now had the distinction of having the first Hispanic archbishop in the United States and the first native born Polish Texan Bishop in the United States to serve its faithful. Bishop Yanta was always actively involved in evangelization efforts and headed up Today’s Catholic Newspaper as its editor. In 1981, together with his classmate, Father Larry Steubben, he founded Catholic Television of San Antonio (CTSA).

In 1997, Bishop Yanta was appointed bishop of Amarillo, and my wife and I and many others traveled to the Panhandle to be present at his installation. He had a very successful tenure as bishop of Amarillo and one of his proudest accomplishments was his successful community-wide effort to close all Planned Parenthood abortion facilities in the diocese.

Upon his retirement, Bishop Yanta remained active, forming study groups, recording, producing, and distributing CD’s that featured him reciting all the mysteries of the rosary. Bishop Yanta recruited me to facilitate meetings in Panna Maria to discuss the early Polish immigrants and I remember being told at one meeting by a local: “We are Polish and we are Catholic.”

That effort grew when Bishop Yanta purchased land, recruited a Board, and began the development of the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria Foundation. This effort has now resulted in a 16,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility that honors the hardworking Polish ancestors who immigrated in 1854 through 1890 and created 13 Polish-Texan communities. The center’s movies, exhibits and interactive audio systems explore the history, faith, and hardships that the ancestors faced, as well as tell the history of Poland.

Bishop Yanta faced a life-threatening illness in December 2017 which had him out of commission for eight months, but he rebounded, and despite medical issues, has continued to inspire all of us with his faith, his leadership, his vision and attention to detail. Our Lord surely has Bishop Yanta in mind when he stated: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” His accomplishments are more numerous than I have listed above. I have been honored to be his friend, confidant, and advisor, as well as Board vice-chairman of the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria Foundation.