The swan still sings!

A recent piece of Fr. Herman's art completed for use in his upcoming book.

SCJ works on second “final” book

When Fr. Herman Falke, SCJ, turned 80 he published Sculpted Swan Songs.  It was his eighth book and one that featured many new or yet unpublished sculptures and paintings.  But since it was to be a “swan song,” it also included a few works that had appeared in other publications, pieces that “are especially dear to me and probably represent my best creative work,” he said.

What was to be his last book was followed a year later by another final book. P.S. There’s More; Latest Gleanings of My Sculptures and Paintings was completed in 2009 and not only highlighted works completed after his “swan song,” but also commemorated his 18 years of pastoral ministry in Osgood Township, Ontario, at St. Brigid and St. John parishes.  He retired from parish ministry in December, 2009.

In 2011 the swan still sings and at 82 Fr. Herman is working on yet another book, one he hopes to have completed by the end of the year.  “For fun, I’ve set a deadline of November 11, 11-11-11,” he said.

This tenth book is a collaborative effort with Fr. Piet Schellens, SCJ, of the Dutch-Flemish Confederation.  The two have worked together on previous books.

Herman examines a newly completed piece.

“Upon my retirement I came upon a major project that I had wanted to do for years – compose a book of my best biblical sculptures combined with contemporary reflections,” said Fr. Herman.   The book will include approximately 110 works based on biblical passages.  Most of the sculptures to be featured are ones that he has already done, but “I did six new ones to fill in a few gaps.”

Fr. Piet Schellens first viewed Fr. Herman’s sculptures when he visited Canada during his term as provincial superior of the Dutch Province. Soon, the two collaborated on a book published in the Netherlands.  It was the first of four books authored by Fr. Piet and illustrated with the sculptures of Fr. Herman.

This fifth collaborative work will be offered in Dutch, English and French.  Although each edition will feature the same sculptures, the reflections will be tailored to the country in which the book is published.  “For example, in Canada [the English and French editions] when we reflect on Jesus taking care of the least among us we will speak about the native people and how so many live in poverty,” said Fr. Herman.  “But in Holland, we will address the situation of refugees.”

If all goes as planned, the English and French editions of the book will be distributed as Christmas gifts to benefactors of the Canadian Region.  The book will also be available through, as are some of Fr. Herman’s previous works.

Who is Fr. Herman?

An accomplished artist, Fr. Herman’s work is found in churches, schools, museums, public buildings and in private collections.

“For over half a century I have managed to function as a priest ‑ sculptor,” said Fr. Herman  “It is no surprise, therefore, that I treat my sculpting as an apostolate with the specific purpose of making Jesus Christ more meaningful to those who see my work.  For instance, as a priest I am often dealing with people in their physical or mental suffering.  They sometimes ask, ‘does suffering make any sense?’  This is where the example of Jesus is so powerful.

“To me, in my western culture, suffering and redemption make better sense in a fully human Jesus who accepts being victimized in utter vulnerability.  In making this complete surrender, he indeed becomes the Incarnation of God’s love.

“In my art I want to touch the unconditional realness of his humanness, and I use the emotional impact of ordinariness, such as nakedness, genuine pain, even impulsiveness of character.”

Originally from the Netherlands, Fr. Herman was first professed in 1949.  He came to Canada as a seminarian in 1952 and was ordained in 1954.

Art has been an important part of his life for as long has he can remember.  In fact, one of his early superiors suggested that he study art full-time.  “But I felt a dual call,” he said.  “It’s a beautiful combination to be an artist-pastor, artist-teacher… my ministries have expanded who I am and what I can create.”

Fr. Herman taught high school art and English for 35 years, including eight years at St. Mary’s College in Uganda as a CUSO volunteer (CUSO is a North American organization that promotes sustainable development through international volunteering).

“Those six years were a formative inspiration for my own art work,” wrote Fr. Herman in Sculpted Swan Songs.  “Immersion in the African milieu changed my Western way of evaluating and creatively recording life.  It taught me to be open to other cultures and not simply stampede in with my preconceived Western ideas.”

Fr. Herman is a member of the Dehon House community in Ottawa; his studio is in the basement of the community house and the building’s three floors have become a showcase for much of his art.