Cover photo for Bishop John W. Yanta's Obituary
Bishop John W. Yanta Profile Photo
1931 Bishop 2022

Bishop John W. Yanta

October 2, 1931 — August 6, 2022

Bishop John Walter Yanta, who ushered the Diocese of Amarillo into the Third Millennium, passed away Aug. 6 on the Feast of the Transfiguration after years of dealing with a number of serious health ailments. He was 90 years old.

A Wake is scheduled Wednesday, Aug. 10 at 6:30pm at St. Laurence Church, 2300 North Spring, Amarillo. The Wake will consist of Evening Prayer (Office of the Dead) and a Rosary. Mass will be celebrated Thursday, Aug. 11 at 10:30am at St. Mary's Cathedral, 1200 South Washington, with Bishop Patrick J. Zurek, presiding.

Bishop Yanta was the seventh Bishop of Amarillo, serving the diocese from 1997 to 2008. He was named Bishop on Jan. 21, 1997 and was installed March 17, 1997 at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, Amarillo, replacing Bishop Leroy T. Matthiesen. He retired on Jan. 3, 2008.

John Walter Yanta was born Oct. 2, 1931 in Runge, the fifth of eight children born to John Andrew and Mary Pollok Yanta. He attended St. John’s Preparatory Seminary and Assumption Seminary in San Antonio and was ordained to the priesthood on March 17, 1956 by Archbishop Robert M. Lucey (the second Bishop of Amarillo) at San Fernando Cathedral in San Antonio.

Following his ordination, then-Father Yanta served as assistant pastor at four San Antonio parishes: St. Ann’s, Our Lady of Grace, Holy Name and St. Pius X. He also began to be prominently involved with the youth in the Archdiocese, serving as Catholic Youth Director and Archdiocesan Youth Director from 1962 to 1968 and on the National Council of Catholic Youth for the Texas/Oklahoma Region from 1964 to 1972.

In 1965, then-Father Yanta organized the San Antonio Neighborhood Youth Organization (SANYO), an anti-poverty program for youth funded by the federal government. He also served as archdiocesan director for the Council for Catholic Laity from 1972 and pastor of Sacred Heart Church, San Antonio, from 1973 to 1981.

From 1981 to 1984, he was editor of the archdiocesan newspaper, Today’s Catholic. While serving as editor, he established and served as first executive director of Catholic Television of San Antonio. In 1984, he was named pastor of St. James Church, San Antonio, where he served until he was named a Bishop by Pope John Paul II (now Blessed John Paul) on Oct. 27, 1994. He was ordained Dec. 30, 1994, during a Mass at Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church in Panna Maria.

A Polish-American, Bishop Yanta was a charter member of a group of priests who founded the Polish American Priests Association (PAPA) of Texas in September 1970. In 1991, he was elected the first national president for the association.

He was also the founder of the Polish American Congress of Texas and served as its president from 1971 to 1976. He was elected in 1990 as a congress vice president.
His other Polish involvement included coordinating Pope John Paul II’s 1987 visit with Catholics from Panna Maria and other Polish peoples in the state. That took place during the Holy Father’s U.S. trip, which included a stop in San Antonio.

During his nearly 11-year term in Amarillo, Bishop Yanta was instrumental in many projects, most noteably, the Pro-Life movement. In a Feb. 3, 2008 tribute issue of The West Texas Catholic, he noted several other blessings, including:
• Natural Family Planning;
• Missionary work;
• Serving immigrants and refugees;
• Two Eucharistic Congresses;
• The Juan de Padilla Symposium of 2004; and,
• The establishment of Catholic Radio.

In an interview in the Sept. 19, 2021 issue of The West Texas Catholic, Bishop Yanta was asked which accomplishments he was most proud of?

“A great joy was to see and witness the deep spirituality of the priests, deacons, religious men and religious women living the Gospel values—many saintly and holy witnesses. I am grateful that Almighty God gave me to serve Him as shepherd of the Diocese of Amarillo.”

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 also focused intensely on the development of the Polish Heritage Center at Panna Maria, whose founding he had spearheaded. The Center celebrated its grand opening Oct. 23-24, 2021.
In the March 16, 1997 issue of The West Texas Catholic that welcomed him to the Diocese of Amarillo, Bishop Yanta was asked what he hoped people would write on his epitaph:

“I hope that they somehow convey the idea that I helped everybody reach their potential in Christ. That I helped everybody mature, as I needed to mature in my own life, to become the presence of Jesus and to put on Jesus with His values and His attitudes in a culture and in a society that was very often hostile.”

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Bishop John W. Yanta, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Starts at 6:30 pm (Central time)

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Funeral Mass

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Starts at 10:30 am (Central time)

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