Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 29, 2003
Woodcarver's talent gives glory to God
WCR Staff Writer
Peter Patershuk never imagined he would become a professional woodcarver one day. It wasn't part of his plans. But that changed in 1988, when he met God and began to feel an urge to express his spirituality through carving. Since then, and without any formal training, he has carved crosses, crucifixes, statues, animals - you name it.
Now Patershuk, an ambulance driver, is giving the finishing touches to a seven-foot high carving of the risen Christ at St. Joseph's High School. He has been working on it on and off since June.
The carving will go on a wooden cross being built by wood fabrication teacher Rick Higham and will be put up on a wall in St. Joseph's atrium.
A similar carving would sell for up to $20,000 in the market but Patershuk, 48, is doing it for free, just because he wants to share his artistic gift with others.
"I want people to realize that you can give too," he said. "So much is done just for money. We live in a world that's so materialistic and you have to make yourself realize there are other reasons for doing things and that they are very genuine."
Students at St. Joe's have raised $3,200 to cover the cost of materials and installation. The school's alumni association recently matched that figure.
As a child growing up in northwest British Columbia, Patershuk would watch in awe as a friend of his father would carve all sorts of little animals in wood. Seeing native artists carve different objects during his teenage years also fuelled his dreams.
But Patershuk's life took a different turn and he ended up becoming a logger. Chopping trees was the only woodcarving he did until the mid 1980s when he moved to Edmonton to become an ambulance driver and emergency medical technologist.
In 1988, he became a Catholic, like his wife. "After that, I got this real urge to carve and I haven't stopped ever since," he explained. "I keep carving and carving and I think it is a gift from God that I was allowed to realize. My whole spirit opened up in me so I can do this stuff. I think I was very artistic all my life but I never realized it until I became a Catholic."
Since then, Patershuk, a father of two, has completed close to 30 professional carvings, including large crucifixes for St. Thomas More Parish in Edmonton, a church in Prince Albert, Sask., and a Lutheran church in Leduc.
When he learned St. Joseph's High was planning to install an image of Jesus in the atrium, he approached the school and offered his services. The school involved students and staff in choosing an image that would fit the school spirit. Patershuk provided them with several designs.
"When we decided the kind of corpus that we wanted in that cross we decided that it would be the Christ victorious, the risen Christ, a Christ that was welcoming us," explained school chaplain Stan Kiryczuk. "We are an Easter people and we wanted to celebrate that fact. We have many crucifixes of the suffering Christ, the dying Christ, but we wanted to have a symbol of hope and salvation."
Last June, Patershuk bought a pile of aspen planks from a sawmill in Calmar, glued them together to make a big chunk of wood and began to carve. He spent a good chunk of his holidays working on the figure. Now he is staining it.
At his request, the carving will go on display on the floor of the atrium for a few weeks before it is mounted on the wall likely by the end of October. "My idea is that students see the image up close and touch it so it can become real to them."
School officials are hoping to have a celebration of the installation of the Risen Christ carving on May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.
Patershuk's work can be seen on the web at www.yellowheadwoodcarving.freeyellow.com.