By Conrad Dudderar
A Yukon man has led a construction management team over the past three years to build a historic, sacred shrine for this country’s first Catholic martyr.
Yukon High School graduate Tony Yanda is senior director at the Boldt Company in Oklahoma City.
In 2018, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Oklahoma City tapped Boldt to serve as construction manager for the building of the Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine in Oklahoma City.
“This has been one of the most challenging – and certainly the most rewarding – project I’ve been a part of,” said Yanda, a parishioner at St. John Nepomuk Catholic Church in Yukon. “There is a lot of pressure involved in it because it is a very high-profile job. Add to that the way COVID impacted the construction market in general, with cost escalations and manpower issues.
“After the dedication last Friday, there was a huge sense of pride and satisfaction.”
The Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine honors the first U.S.-born priest to be beautified – the last step before sainthood.
An Okarche native, Father Rother was killed in 1981 in Guatemala while serving the poor as a missionary priest.
In 2016, Pope Francis declared Rother the first martyr for the Catholic Church in the United States.
This magnificent shrine has been dedicated after three years of construction by about 250 skilled workers. Groundbreaking on the 56-acre shrine complex was in April 2020.
The Boldt Co. construction management team worked with design architects Franck and Lohsen, of Washington D.C., and project architects ADG, of Oklahoma City.
“We had several months of site work and utilities that had to be done,” Yanda said. “We hit the ground running right after that.
“We had 33 different trade contractors on the job.”
The Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine complex features a 38,000 square foot church that seats 2,000 people – the largest Catholic Church in Oklahoma.
Inside the main church is a 200-seat chapel, which serves as Rother’s final resting place.
A 12,000 square foot “pilgrim center” houses administrative offices, a museum and gift shop.
The museum tells the story of Rother’s life and martyrdom.
The shrine complex has been built on a former golf course at SE 89th between Shields Boulevard and Interstate 35.
The Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine is home to Tepeyac Hill, a replica of a site in Mexico where the Virgin Mary appeared to a peasant named Juan Diego in 1531 and told him to build a church.
The Oklahoma City Archdiocese led by Archbishop Paul S. Coakley, has been “great to work with” during the lengthy construction process, according to Yanda.
“There was a lot of planning on their side – from the fund-raising to the overall programming and management – to get to where we are now,” he shared.
“The archbishop said it best – he called this a ‘labor of faith’. It really was … people with a lot of faith in this job to get it done.”
Construction of the $50 million Blessed Stanley Rother Shrine was the central element to the Oklahoma City Archdiocese’s “One Church, Many Disciples” capital campaign.
As lead construction manager for this project, Yanda and his wife Kimberly visited Guatemala with the building committee during a week in summer 2019.
“I grew up Catholic but wouldn’t say I knew Blessed Stanley’s story that well until I become involved with this,” he said. “It was a chance to learn his story, look at the architecture of the churches in Guatemala, visit his parish there, and also develop that relationship with the building committee and design team.”
A 1998 Yukon High School graduate, Yanda attended Oklahoma State University where he played football.
In 2004, he earned a degree in construction engineering from OSU. After graduating college, he worked on construction projects in Dallas, Cleveland, Ohio; and Scottsdale, Ariz.
Tony and Kim Yanda moved back to Yukon in 2009 to start and raise a family. He worked with a federal contracting firm for about six years before accepting a position with the Boldt Co. in August 2016.
The Yukon resident is a senior director at Boldt, in charge of all local commercial construction projects for the company’s southern operating division in Oklahoma City.
A phase two addition to Spanish Cove Retirement Village in Yukon is among large projects Yanda has led while with Boldt. He’s supervised other projects for General Motors, Oklahoma Wesleyan University, Moore Public Schools, and Harrah Public Schools.
Before joining Boldt, Yanda worked on major renovation and expansion projects at OSU’s Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, the NorthPark Center shopping mall in Dallas, the Cleveland Clinic medical center in Ohio, and the Scottsdale Quarter multi-use development in Arizona.