St. Mary’s Parish, P.N.C.C. Winnipeg

St. Mary’s Church, the oldest parish of the Polish National Catholic Church in Canada, was founded in Winnipeg in 1904, when a small but determined group chose to leave the established Roman Catholic Church. The reasons for organizing an independent church in Winnipeg did not diverge greatly from the reasons which led Rev. Francis Hodur to organize an independent church in United States. The injustices inflicted upon the Poles in the United States were similar to those felt in Winnipeg.
One of the prime motives for separating from the established church was the lack of authority which the parishioners had regarding control over Parish administration. As in the United States, this administration was left in the hands of the Bishops of the Diocese. The parishioners, who had build the churches, resented this exploitation particularly since there was minimal Polish representation in the offices of the Diocese. In addition, there was a strong desire of many to replace the traditional Latin liturgy with a Polish one, which could be understood by the congregation. The discontent continued until 1904 when the Fraternal Aid Society of Sts. Peter and Paul was formed, serving as the foundation of the new, independent church.
When Rev. Francis Hodur founded the Polish National Catholic Church in Scranton, Pennsylvania in 1897, there was strong opposition to the new independent church, but it continued to prosper and grow through the difficult years. The independent church in Winnipeg also continued to grow under the guidance of Rev. W. Blazowski. In 1909, the Parish officially entered the organization of the Polish National Catholic Church.
The Parish continued to prosper and expand in and around Winnipeg. In 1911, a parcel of land was purchased to serve as a parish cemetery. In 1922, St. Joseph’s Mission was founded in Libau, Manitoba. In 1923, a hall was constructed next to the church to serve as a gathering place for all , and an adjacent residence was purchased which become the Rectory.
In 1924, St. Joseph’s Mission was established in Beausejour, Manitoba. During this growing period, various organizations were formed, including the Ladies Adoration Society, Maria Konopnicka Choir and Youth Club. Polish language School classes were also organized.
The Parish was guided in these early years by Rev. J. Zawistowski, Rev. P. Pokrowiec, Rev. J. Pekala, Rev. A. Wiacek, Rev. M. Guzek, Rev. A. Turkiewicz, Rev. E. Gucwa, Rev. J. Palaszewski, Rev. S. Swarczewski and Rev. F. Biel.
In 1927, the Parish was assigned to the Western Diocese, headed by the Rt. Rev. Leon Grochowski.
The depression and war years that followed brought the members closer together because of the harsh times felt by all. These years of difficulty placed a great strain on the Parish, but under guidance of Rev. A. Matla and Rev. W. Sienko it continued to prosper. In 1946, St. Joseph’s Church was founded in Brandon, Manitoba.
Following the Second World War, the Parish was again alive with excitement resulting in the need to expand. In 1948, to accommodate this expansion, it was decided to sell the existing Rectory, demolish the old hall, and construct a new complex, which would include a Rectory and a larger two level Parish Hall. The members of the Parish also recognized the limitations of the existing church building and the continued growth of the congregation. It was then decided to establish a building fund for a new Church which became a reality nearly twenty years later.
During this period, the Parish was guided by Rev. L. Naleway, Rev. J. Zawistowski, Rt. Rev. J. Misiaszek, Rev. S. Krawiec and Rev. D. Malinowski.
In 1966, the vision of a new and larger church building intensified and the members decided to proceed with construction which took place in 1967, coinciding with Canada’s Centennial celebration. The new church building was dedicated in March 1968 on the Anniversary of the founding of the Polish National Catholic Church. The beautiful new edifice nor only is able to accommodate the expansion of the Parish, but is a monument to the determination of the pioneers.
St. Mary’s and the other parishes in Canada were transferred from the Buffalo-Pittsburgh Diocese in 1968 to the newly formed Canadian Diocese, headed by Rt. Rev. J. Nieminski. In the same year, Rev. D. Malinowski was elevated to the position of Senior Priest.
In 1974, Rev. Waclaw Cwieka was appointed as parish priest. In 1979, he was elevated to the position of Senior Priest and Administrator of the Western Seniorate of the Canadian Diocese.
The Parish serves not only its own members, but also the community around it. In doing so, an English Mass is performed to augment the traditional Polish Mass every Sunday. This enables people of all nationalities to participate in the service.
In 2011, Rev. Tadeusz Czelen was appointed as parish priest.
The last hundred years have presented a challenge which the members of the St. Mary’s have welcomed. In the early years, the members worked to maintain and rule their own church affairs. The challenge is still there, and the future will be met with the same enthusiasm and dedication as in the past, for the continual expansion of the Church and Parish, never losing sight of the motto: “TRUTH – WORK – STRUGGLE”.


Rev. Wilhelm Blazowski 1904-1905
Rev. C. K. Kornapfel 1906-1907
Rev. Leopold A. Klawiter 1907-1908
Rev. B. M. Baligrodzki 1908-1909
Rev. Antoni Plucinski 1909-1910
Rev. F. J. Laszkiewicz 1910-1911
Rev. A. R. Markiewicz 1911-1922
Rev. J. L. Zawistowski 1922-1923
Rev. P. Pokrowiec 1923-1924
Rev. A. Wiacek 1924
Rev. M. Guzek 1924-1925
Rev. J. Palaszewski 1925-1927
Rev. A. Sobaszek 1927-1928
Rev. S. Swarczewski 1928-1933
Rev. E. Biel 1933-1934
Rev. A. Matla 1934-1935
Rev. W. Sienko 1935-1947
Rev. L. Naleway 1947-1949
Rev. J. Zawistowski 1949-1955
Rt. Rev. J. Misiaszek 1955-1957
Rev. S. Krawiec 1957-1959
Very Rev. D. Malinowski 1959-1974
Very Rev. W. Cwieka 1974-2011
Rev. T. Czelen 2011-2021