St Joseph’s Polish National Catholic Church is the first branch of St. Mary’s Parish, P.N.C.C Winnipeg.
After St. Mary’s Parish was officially part of the Polish National Church in 1904, it began expanding in Manitoba. That’s when, in 1922, St. Joseph’s Mission was founded in Libau, Manitoba and parishioners built the church that still stands today.
Though it’s the same building, the location has changed. Originally, the church was built on the east side of the old train tracks – about one mile north of the St. Joseph’s Polish National Cemetery on Highway 59 and one mile west of Highway 59.
The community moved the building in the 1930s to where it stands today. To transfer it, community members put it on skids, logs and cross wire to roll and drag it. When that didn’t work, the community used horses and tractors. Once the church was on its new foundation, they celebrated with a huge meal and lots of laughs.
There are two cemeteries associated with the Libau church. The first is known as “the cemetery between Highway 59.” This cemetery was hard to access before paved roads since it was deep in the bush – only horses could bring family and friends to a loved ones’ gravesite.
The second cemetery is “St. Joseph’s Polish National Catholic Church Cemetery.” It is located on the same piece of land where Libau’s first school stood in 1903. That one-room school burned down in 1906, and the cemetery was created years later. This cemetery had road access even back then, with what’s now known as Highway 317.
Because the priest has never been based in Libau, community members would help him make his way into town for services every other Sunday. Someone would have the job to take the priest from the train station, bring him to the church, then to someone’s home. That is, unless the priest had a car. Then he’d be able to make house calls himself.
The church’s longest-serving priest was Very Rev. W. Cwieka, serving the church from 1974 to 2011. Through those 37 years, Rev. Cwieka helped create the community that still exists today in Libau and surrounding areas. The Rev. Tadeusz Czelen now celebrates the Polish National faith with his small group of parishioners every second Sunday of the Month from April until December (weather permitting).
Though the congregation has gotten smaller over the past 94 years, Libau has always been known for its hard-working people. Members of the community continue to mow the lawns of both the church and cemetery, landscape the area and keep the church warm in the harsh Manitoba winters and cool in our blazing summers.