Founder – Rev. Paul J. Breza

(taken from; Polish and Kashubian versions also available)

Early life and education

Paul Joseph Breza, Roman Catholic priest and Kashubian American activist, was born in Winona, Minnesota on June 23, 1937, the son of Joseph Peter and Alice Seraphine (Pehler) Breza, both of whom were descendants of Kashubian immigrants from Bytów, Poland. He was educated at Saint Stanislaus Kostka School, Cotter High School and Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Priestly ministry

After completing his seminary studies, Father Breza was ordained a priest on June 1, 1963 for the Diocese of Winona. During his nearly fifty years of active priestly ministry, Father Breza has served the Diocese of Winona in a number of roles: pastor, chaplain, teacher, and administrator, tending to people from across the spectrum of society. In his retirement, he continues to fill in for other priests whenever needed in addition to serving as the Diocesan archivist.

Kashubian American activism

In 1979, Father Breza established the Polish Cultural Institute and Museum, located in Winona in a former lumber yard office he had purchased two years earlier. Initially intended to commemorate Winona’s Polish American heritage, the Cultural Institute and Museum has also developed a Kashubian element after Father Breza’s visits to Bytów in the late 1980s and the 1990s. Under Father Breza’s guidance, Winona and Bytów became Sister Cities in 2004, and Bytów celebrated its first annual Dzien Winony (“Winona Day”) on September 26, 2006. Under the Polish Cultural Institute’s auspices, students from both Winona and Bytów participate in an exchange program, the most recent of which took place in 2012.

Honors and Awards

Father Breza has received public honors for his priestly ministry and for his service to the Kashubian American community, both in Poland and in the United States. In 2007 his alma matter, Cotter High School, named him its third “Alumnus of the Year.” In 2008 the city of Bytow recognized him with the title “Honorary Citizen of Bytow.” In 2010, Father Breza was inducted into Winona’s Polish Heritage Hall of Fame. On May 5, 2013, in a ceremony at the Polish Museum, the Polish Consul General in Chicago, Ms. Paulina Kapuscinska, presented Father Breza with the Cavalier’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland for his contribution to Polish American relations. On June 1, 2013, with representatives from the town on Bytow in attendance, Father Breza celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of his ordination to the Roman Catholic priesthood with a special Mass at the the Basilica of Saint Stanislaus Kostka and a banquet at the Polish Museum.


Founder – Rev. Paul J. Breza — 8 Comments

  1. Good Morning Father Breza!

    I didn’t hear of your 50 year celebration until it was over, but wish I could have been there to join in the celebration.

    In September I am planning a trip to Winona, if all goes well, and will stop in to see you.

    Take care – I look forward to seeing you again. Bonnie

    • Hi Fr. Breza,

      Congratulations!! I am hoping to come to Winona to visit on Saturday the 17th of August. For that long over due visit. Will you be in town?

      S. Kristin

      • Hello, Sr. Kristin! I have taken the liberty of emailing your message to the good Father, that is, winpole AT hbci D0T com, if you know what I mean. I am sure he will be very happy to see you!

  2. Fr. Breza,
    I just put October 6th on my calendar for the Smiths to press some apples at the festival. Hope to see you before then. I heard a rumor that you might be in St. Charles for a Mass. Take care–Mike

  3. Hello,

    I am of German-Kashubian descent. Some of my ancestors were Kashubians who were “Germanized” in the northeast of Pomerania (which is now Poland) in the `18th and 19th centuries. Indeed, many of them came from Glowitz, Stolp, Pomerania, Prussia.

    I was of the opinion that the Kashubian people were neither German nor Polish, but a minority race, and the last tribe of the “Ancient Balts”.

    I realize that today the Kashubians are protected as a minority race in Poland. However, to my knowledge they are neither Polish nor German, but Kashubian.

    Please reply.

    With thanks,
    Ruth Buenting

  4. From book THE CASSUBIAN CIVILIZATION, by Fr. Lorentz, Ph.D., Adam Fischer, Ph.D. & Tadeusz Lehr-Splawinski, Ph.D. Pub. in London by Faber & Faber Limited, copyright 1935. Inside of cover reads “Dr. Lorentz, the German Scholar, definitely establishes the Slavonic provenance of the Cassubians. His conclusions are summarized in the statement that ‘in spite of their external adoption of the fruits of German culture they have inwardly remained what they were from the beginning, a Slavonic people’. Dr. Fischer goes on to say that he, too, finds Cassubians to be Slavonic in character, and indeed ‘in no way different from the Polish, for it is Polish’.

    Another good book is POLAND by Konrad Jazdzewski, copyright 1965.He talks of the Cassubians being an off-shoot of the Lusatians, who are an off-shoot of the Western Slavic Venedic. The Lusatians are located in E. Germany, while the Cassubians continued on covering a larger area in Poland.

    A chart I have on the evolution of Slavic (Polish /Czech /Russian, etc.) languages shows the Lusations, Pomeranian Cassubs (Kaszubs), Silesians, Polanie, etc. as being of the Slavonic language. I have researched for many years, have Kaszub ancestors, and consider the Cassubians (Kaszubians) as Slavonic, or Polish. My chart shows the Cassubs evolving from the Proto Balto-Slavic group. Hope this helps.

  5. Dear Father Breza,
    I met you a few weeks ago when our family took a short vacation trip to Winona. I appreciate the efforts you have made in preserving and celebrating the achievements of Poles as my daughter is of part Polish descent. It is amazing to see such a work of love as your museum.

    Sincerly, AA

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