As parishioners celebrate the Feast Day of St. Joseph on March 19, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and legal father of Jesus Christ, they recognize a local Christian sculpture artist and parishioner, Rick Cermak. He has blessed St. Joseph Parish in Mantua with his works of art.
Born in Cleveland in 1946, Rick was a construction worker by trade who felt he had been blessed by God with some very special talents. His life story includes one living immersed in drinking, prescription drugs, and running around destroying two marriages and his family life. He said he hit rock bottom in 1991 and considered suicide.
It was at that point when he prayed to God for help and later received a message he explained as his miracle. While sitting at home in front of TV he heard a voice saying, "This is a sign from God," and then became very hot on his head which then spread through his entire body. This overwhelming experience was the beginning of his incredible story of being free of his addictions without any outside help or setbacks and sharing the Lord’s mission through his artwork.
Although his artistic background involved art studio courses at community college and oil painting, he had never sculpted anything before. Rick explained that the Lord orchestrates his craft, guiding him and challenging his faith. He continues to be inspired and said he is merely a tool being controlled by the Master Sculptor. Believing that "He began to lead the way," this man shares his creations with others only asking for reimbursement for materials or giving them as gifts.
Throughout the entire process of each piece, from being in the right place at the right time, to providing materials, funds, knowledge, skill, and connections, Rick said, "The Lord teaches me patience, humility, and, most of all, trust in Him." This trust and acceptance inspires and guides him each step of the way.
He begins crafting by making a clay mock-up that is one-third of the piece’s completed size. After being provided with just the right wood, with chainsaw, a 4-inch grinder, both aggressive and finer Dremel tools, and plenty of sanding, his creations come to life.
Preferring to work with butternut wood, Rick said each piece takes on a life of its own evolving from the unique aspects of the materials and orchestrated by the Lord. Pieces take hundreds if not thousands of hours to complete.
Rick and his wife, Char, have been a part of St. Joseph Church since early 2017. At Easter in 2017, he presented the parish with a new St. Joseph sculpture replacing a piece from 1983 that had been badly deteriorating for years. It holds a place of honor in the southeast corner of the church (where the tabernacle used to be located) with the original carpenter’s bench enhancing this altar.
In addition in 2018, parishioner Char Baumbick crafted a votive candle table and a folding screen to act as a backdrop and cleverly hide the cold air return grate in that area. For Christmas in 2018, a second piece, The Holy Family, was crafted and presented to bless the parish once again.
Gracing the northeast corner of the Narthex, this sculpture greets everyone as they enter the worship space. Rick explained that he wanted to make a scene that everyone could relate to personally and depicts the Holy Family in a happy, fun environment.
To view photos of Cermak’s work, visit https://stjosephmantua.com/saint-joseph-sculpture. To learn more about his story of divine inspiration, specifically the story of the three-piece collection Our Salvation, gifted to Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Santa Fe, N.M., in 1995, visit http://www.oursalvation.org.