barrheadleaderBarrhead Leader, June 3, 2008

Actor Turned Priest Graces Barrhead

By Andrew Coffey, Barrhead Leader Staff

Edward Danylo Evanko, a Canadian actor of Ukrainian descent, executed a captivating one man performance that displayed not only superb talent but a deeply felt calling.

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Father Damien, the Belgian priest who gave his life to helping Hawaiian lepers has been immortalized in major Hollywood films and theatre productions. Last Wednesday, it took just one actor to tell the moving story of ultimate sacrifice.

Edward Danylo Evanko, a Canadian actor of Ukrainian descent, executed a captivating one man performance that displayed not only superb talent but a deeply felt calling.

imageFrEdward1aEvanko has acted around the world in cities from Rome to Sydney, and now Barrhead has joined his ever growing list of on-stage performances.

"Each time I perform the play it does something new for me. I always think this could be the last time I perform it," says Evanko.

The play tells the story of Jozef De Veuster, who left his homeland to travel halfway around the world to the mission field in Hawaii. Only a short time after his arrival on the island, the renamed Father Damien would hear of the leper colony on the Island of Molokai, which was described as a "Narrow sour tongue of sand, the most useless piece of land imaginable." The island would become a dumping ground for the living dead, a place Father Damien later described as the saddest place on earth.

The play began with Father Damien describing his own funeral. It was on the Island of Molokai that he wanted to be buried, beneath the same tree under which he had spent his first night on the island. He had been the only "clean" priest to enter the colony since its creation, and served the people there for 16 years.

When he arrived in Hawaii he was in perfect health. He traveled the smaller Hawaiian Islands in search of his lost sheep, the natives who knew nothing of the Gospel. From early on, he had trouble with his feet from walking over the still hot lava flows from Hawaii’s many volcanoes to reach remote native villages.

Though the natives initially ignored the substance of his message, they liked his personality and congenial laugh.

Then an oriental disease called leprosy suddenly struck the Hawaiian Islands, likely brought there by sailors from the Far East stopping to re-supply on voyages across the Pacific Ocean.

The government, to warn villagers and visitors to the island that lepers were nearby, hung yellow flags near leper homes and dwellings. Later, those flags would be markers for government officials who rounded up lepers to take them to the desolate island of Molokai.

FatherDamien1Father Damien was a Roman Catholic missionary who helped lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokaʻi and also died of the disease.

Father Damien retells the vivid scene that left a major impact on him during the play - moving images of children being ripped from their mothers and husbands being taken from their wives and families.

After the inhabited areas had been cleared and the lepers sealed off from the outside on Molokai to await a slow and painful death, Damien continued his work of witnessing to the natives around the Islands.

But his work from the cathedral in Honolulu left him wanting more. On a routine stop at Molokai to drop off medicine and food, Damien saw over a thousand lepers coming down the docks. "He could not bear to look at them, but neither could he turn his head." They came down, limping their way to the ship or being carried by fellow lepers. Some of them were missing fingers or toes, others had to be pushed along in wheelbarrows.

What he saw affected him so deeply, he refused to leave the island. The Bishop of Honolulu tried to convince him it was suicide to go among the lepers, but nothing could dissuade him. He felt he had no choice... this was his calling.

So, he stayed. For the next 16 years he was the only priest to go among the lepers and care for them.

The conditions on the island, he soon learned, were horrendous. He set about to first get running water in the colony, and built a hut that soon became a popular spot for the lepers to congregate. He tended to their sores, tended to their souls, and most importantly sacrificed his own well being so as to make their misery a little more bearable.

Then a major hurricane hit the island and destroyed over half of the shelters the lepers occupied. Along with their homes, most of their food and supplies were destroyed. Father Damien traveled to Honolulu to meet with the health board and explain the situation to them. He was ignored at first, and only after subsequent efforts to get proper supplies to "his lepers" did the government concede. The government wanted to exterminate the lepers since their highly contagious disease was incurable. Father Damien had far different intentions, and through no small effort was able to get a hospital established that would provide at least some care for the sick.

Soon newspapers heard of his amazing sacrifice and began to write about him. Father Damien was infuriated, and didn’t want to be glorified for simply doing his duty as a priest. He claimed that all he wanted was to live peacefully with "his lepers" and show them that God had not forgotten their plight.

Father Damien was washing his feet one evening when he realized he had stuck his foot into scalding hot water. He couldn’t feel any pain. He too had become a leper.

Years later Father Damien would be buried on the island and would lay there for over half a century. But the Belgian government wanted their national icon to return to his homeland. The body of Father Damien, against his dying wish, was taken from Molokai to lay in state in Honolulu. Four days later, the body was transported to Belgium and laid to rest in his hometown.

Evanko said that he was inspired to perform the one man play when a close friend of his from Manitoba needed a kidney transplant. The operation was a success, but the friend’s father who had donated one of his own kidneys suffered serious complications and nearly died. "I wanted to help them out in some way. I could act and sing, so I thought I would do a play or concert of some sort. Then I heard of this play written by Aldyth Morris. So I started to perform and the proceeds went to my friend. After that episode was over I ended up doing the play all over the place. I don’t look to promote it myself, but people hear about and so I keep performing."

The actor turned priest has performed on Broadway, in Hollywood, and at one time had his own TV show on CBC. In 2001 he felt called to enter the priesthood and live a life devoted to helping others, much like Father Damien.

edeheadLG1aFather Edward Evanko

Evanko says the part of the play that moves him the most is when Father Damien leaves his family behind to enter the priesthood. "I want people to know more about Damien because a lot of people know the name but don’t really know about his life and the sacrifices he made. And people learn more by being moved and entertained than if I just got up and gave a lecture," explained Evanko.

After his performance in Barrhead, Evanko was headed to Edmonton to perform an adaptation of a play about the famine that struck Ukraine in the early 1900’s.

The one man show will be off to many other destinations around the world this year, to not only inform people about the ultimate sacrifice made by one priest but to inspire others to pursue a life of service.

Evanko’s church is located in Richmond, B.C. and information about his ministry and background can be found at

BCCatholic1B.C. Catholic, May 12, 2008

‘Say, Father, didn’t you used to be...?’

By Susan Lazaruk

This priest never had to work as a waiter.

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bcCatholicFrEdward1aSusan Lazaruk / Special to The B.C. Catholic

What’s in a name? Plenty if you’re at Holy Dormition of the Mother of God Ukrainian Catholic Church in Richmond. Father Edward Evanko, a former Hollywood actor turned priest, has renamed the parish to reflect its eastern heritage. It was formerly known as Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish.

When they met their new pastor, parishioners at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrai- nian Catholic Parish in Richmond might have thought they had met him before. Before Father Edward Danylo Evanko was ordained in 2005 he was a Vancouver-based TV and movie actor. He played the dashing Dr. Alex McLean for several seasons on the soap opera Ryan’s Hope and had roles in more than 200 musicals. He was in movies and TV series including Chicago Hope, 3rd Rock from the Sun, the 1999 Hollywood thriller Double Jeopardy, and countless other shows. even recorded a pop album.

“I never had to work as a waiter,” he said with a laugh. While working as an actor he was also making regular appearances at Holy Rosary Cathedral, where he had a role as a Sunday lector. He said parishioners’ comments that his reading really made the Biblical messages come alive for them meant more to him than the applause he’d heard over his four decades as an actor on Broadway as well as on screen.

“It gave me such rewards,” he said.

In Canada, and especially in the living rooms of Ukrainian-Canadians across the prairies, he was best known as the Winnipeg boy who made it big, like pop singer Burton Cummings and Hollywood game show host Monty Hall.

Many of those Canadians had bought his two albums, which featured Ukrainian songs, and they had proudly watched the local boy with the matinee-idol good looks and smooth, rich voice as he hosted his own variety show, The Ed Evanko Show, on CBC Television in 1967.

One day a pastor at Holy Rosary asked him if he had ever thought of becoming a priest. Not since serving as an altar boy at the Ukrainian Catholic Church in Winnipeg’s North End, where he was raised by his Ukrainian immigrant parents, he replied. “He said all you have to do is say the word and you can be in Rome (to attend seminary) this fall,” he recalled. “I was speechless and I started crying and I knew that’s exactly what I must do.”

He gave up show business to prepare for the biggest role of his life.

That was in 2001, when Evanko was 62. He was ordained on Aug. 6, 2005, in Winnipeg. In his first assignment he served 12 small parishes dotted across southwestern Manitoba for about two and a half years before coming to Richmond.

Now 69, he recently became the parish priest at the Holy Dormition of the Mother of God (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin) Ukrainian Catholic Church in Richmond. There he delivers his homilies, carrying a different message to his new audience.

“It makes me so happy when they say no one has ever explained (this Biblical story) to us like that before,” he said. “I feel so privileged to be able to speak to people every week.”


Susan Lazanuk/Special to the B.C. Catholic

In his present life Father Evanko, seen here in his parish church, not only still acts but also writes. He has prepared a performance called Be Well and Prosper, My Beloved Ukraine, a one-man play for the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor, or Ukrainian genocide, and he performs the one-man play Damien, about the leper priest of Molokai.

During his four years of studies for the priesthood, which began in the Roman rite, Father Evanko felt a strong call to the Ukrainian Catholic Church and switched his studies to the Byzantine rite.

His eventual arrival at the Holy Spirit Ukrainian Catholic Seminary in Ottawa was unlike any other seminarian’s. At the time Eparch Kenneth Nowakowski of the New Westminster Eparchy was a priest and the seminary rector.

“My mother, who lives in Saskatchewan, heard that Father Edward was going to be at the seminary, and she asked me if I could diplomatically ask for his autograph,” recalled the eparch.

Although he was the oldest seminarian at Holy Spirit, he said at his previous seminary in Rome half the men were between 50 and 70 years old. “We’re all on different paths.”

“Age is not a factor” for the vocation of priesthood, said Eparch Nowakowski, adding there are advantages and disadvantages.

“For some, it’s a struggle to go back and be a student,” he said, “but they’ve seen life. They’ve probably experienced life and the challenges their parishioners are facing because they’ve experienced people getting ill, and those who have died, and they’ve experienced births and marriages and joys. I think they bring a wealth of experience.”

He said Father Evanko is a “very, very humble and kind and gentle person. As rector, I would have to ask myself would I like this person to be the pastor where my mum and dad went to church. Father Edward exhibits very good empathy with the people he’s serving.”

Father Evanko hasn’t entirely left performing behind. In Manitoba he found himself staging a fund-raising play to help a fellow priest and his family financially recover from the priest’s kidney transplant.

He now has two one-man plays in his repertoire that he has performed in Europe and across Canada and in the U.S.

One is Damien, about Blessed Damien de Veuster, a Belgian Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary missionary priest who ministered to lepers in Hawaii in the 19th century. Father Evanko last performed it in Indiana and Vancouver this spring. The other play commemorates the tragedy of the 1932-33 Ukraine famine, or Holodomor.

“I really regard this as part of my ministry,” he said. “Being a parish priest is my first calling, but this (performing) is what I was born to do. I had no idea this was going to happen.”

After performing Damien in England in London, and in Rome, Chicago, and across Canada, Father Evanko was asked by a Toronto Ukrainian Catholic priest to prepare a performance to mark the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor.

After reading the heart-wrenching survivors’ accounts, he knew he had no choice. He said he remembered thinking, “I’ve got to do this.”

The result is Be Well and Prosper, My Beloved Ukraine, in which he reads the dramatic accounts in English and sings mournful Ukrainian hymns.

“People will learn a lot more about what happened during that tragic time instead of hearing stats or lectures,” he said.

In one of the most underreported tragedies of the 20th century, 7 to 10 million people are estimated to have starved to death after Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin forced collectivization in 1932-1933, confiscating grain from peasant farmers and blocking supplies into Ukraine.

Ukraine has been drawing attention to the Holodomor since its independence in 1991. For years it has been trying to get the United Nations to recognize the famine as an act of genocide committed against the Ukrainian people.

Father Evanko’s performance helps to honour the victims and to remember the terror so that it’s not repeated, said Eparch Nowakowski.

Father Evanko said he can use his God-given talents to help shine a light on the tragedy.

“I’m so fortunate to have had that (professional acting and singing) experience and can bring all of that training and those skills to this project,” he said.

A charity performance in Vancouver in April, which included a “hunger banquet” of bread and water and collected food for the local food banks and donations for an orphanage in L’viv, Ukraine, run by the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, won’t be his last.

Father Evanko has been invited to perform Damien and the Holodomor production in Australia this summer for World Youth Day and for a famine commemoration in Los Angeles in November.

PostTribunePost-Tribune, April 20, 2008

Actor-turned-priest is now literally a one-man show

By Julie Ault

VALPARAISO -- A Ukrainian Catholic priest who once enjoyed a career as a Broadway performer recently inspired parishioners at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Student Center with his portrayal of a 19th-century priest who ministered to lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai.

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Leslie Adkins

The Rev. Edward Danyo Evanko performs a one-man show at the St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church in Valparaiso.

VALPARAISO -- A Ukrainian Catholic priest who once enjoyed a career as a Broadway performer recently inspired parishioners at St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Student Center with his portrayal of a 19th-century priest who ministered to lepers on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. The Rev. Edward Evanko performed "Damien," a one-man play, at the Valparaiso church. Blessed Father Damien, as he is now known, was a Belgian-born priest who lived with and cared for the Hawaiian lepers before dying of the disease in 1889. The Rev. Edward Evanko performed "Damien," a one-man play, at the Valparaiso church. Blessed Father Damien, as he is now known, was a Belgian-born priest who lived with and cared for the Hawaiian lepers before dying of the disease in 1889. Maryann Dudzinski, a St. Teresa's member, organized Evanko's appearance at her church. She knew of Evanko through a mutual friend and had seen "Damien."

Maryann Dudzinski, a St. Teresa's member, organized Evanko's appearance at her church. She knew of Evanko through a mutual friend and had seen "Damien." "I heard he liked getting families with children involved, and it's about vocations, so that involved the college kids. Families and college kids just sounded like St. Teresa's," Dudzinski said of her church, whose primary mission is to serve Catholic students attending Valparaiso University. Evanko was ordained less than three years ago. Before taking his vows, he performed in more than 200 musicals in America, Canada and Japan. He starred in "The Canterbury Tales" with Sandy Duncan, "Sweeney Todd" with Jean Stapleton, hosted "The Ed Evanko Show" on Canadian television, and appeared on "Ryan's Hope" and "3rd Rock from the Sun." Evanko was living in Vancouver and attending a Roman Catholic Church, where he was asked to read the Scriptures. The priest there asked Evanko if he ever considered the priesthood. "It was like I was St. Paul falling off my horse," Evanko recalled. "I was flabbergasted. I'd been an actor for more than 40 years, but I said, 'You're right!' I didn't even see this door, and he opened it wide for me." Evanko was ordained in the Ukrainian Catholic Church in 2005. His acting colleagues, he said, supported his decision. "They were totally supportive, in some cases, envious," he said. "Acting is a wonderful profession, but I don't miss the business of show business." Evanko said each time he is in front of parishioners at his Vancouver church, he combines acting with his ministry. "Performing the liturgy is theater, but not in the sense of being fake," he said. "Some people will say, 'Oh, an actor, that's fake.' But good acting is truth. "When people leave my liturgy I'm hoping they feel transformed, that they're taking something with them. That's what makes them want to come back again and again." Evanko first performed "Damien" to help raise money for a priest friend needing a kidney transplant. Word spread, and he has since done the play in Rome, London, Chicago, and will present it in Sydney, Australia, during World Youth Day. Charlie Crowley, 13, was in the audience at St. Teresa's. "I've never seen a one-man play, and the story was interesting, too," he said. "You see this clean man going into a neglected leper colony, and still he was accepted in the church." Doug Demaree also attended. "It's so inspiring to hear of a priest who gave his life so selflessly to a cause," Demaree said. "He had no pride about it. It inspires you to do better things."

TodaysCatholicToday's Catholic, April 13, 2008

‘You have to find God’s purpose besides obstacles’

By Lauren Caggiano

Canadian priest brings to life the story of Father Damien

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image1Greg Bastin

Father Edward Danylo Evanko brought a 19th century story of Father Damian to a 21st century world the evening of April 3 at the University of Saint Francis.

FORTWAYNE — Father Edward Danylo Evanko brought a 19th century story of conflict, unwavering devotion and sick- ness to a 21st century world on the evening of April 3 at the University of Saint Francis.

Father Evanko performed the one-man play, “Damien,” written by playwright Aldyth Morris at the North Campus auditorium. “Damien” is the story of a young Belgian priest who comes to the Hawaiian island Molokai to min- ister to the lepers.

The lights dimmed in the audi- torium as Father Evanko took the stage, donned in the traditional black vestments. Evanko evoked emotion from the audience, as he dramatizes the poignant story of Damien’s ministry.

The play was enacted in reverse chronological order, as Father Evanko shared a graphic account of Damien’s death in an omniscient voice.

“The sickness has consumed me,” he says about his last days on the island. “There is nothing left for it to feed upon.”

Damien cared for the lowliest of the population, lepers who were left to die in sickness and squalor. The priest inevitably contracted the disease but chose to live and die among them.

“For sixteen years I’ve been the sole keeper of this city of the dead,” he says. “Now I have come to rest.”

Father Evanko brought to life the conflict between himself, the bishop and the board of health administrators. Throughout his ministry the bishop questioned Damien’s mission to minister to the lepers. But Damien insisted it was his calling to remain on the island.

“This is my niche ... what I was born to do,” he says. “(The lepers) must have one priest who belongs to them. ... I want to be their priest.”

The Hawaiian Board of Health turned a blind eye to the dire situ- ation on the leper colony and Damien speaks of “gross neglect.”

“I’m not an agent of the Board of Health,” he says. “I’m a priest.”

Damien was disgusted by the board’s claim that segregation is “effective yet humane,” as it is neither. The board wanted to drive him out, but he remained loyal to the “Laws of God versus the Laws of Man.”

Father Evanko, a priest in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, said he has been an actor for 40 years and has performed the play internationally in over 30 venues.

The priest said attendees should “make what they want from it,” as they can find paral- lels in their own lives.

“You find things in yourselves when you see this piece,” he said.

Father Evanko praised the playwright Morris’work, as it is an honest portrayal of the priest’s life.

“The play is not just details, but comes to life,” he said. “Everyone who sees this will be affected by it.”

Father Evanko said he found a personal message in Damien’s story.

“Be true to yourself and your ambitions,” he said. “You have to find God’s purpose besides obsta- cles.”

Father Evanko also performed the play April 1 at Valparaiso University. His next performance of “Damien’is April 11 at the Holy Family National Shrine in Washington D.C.

SudburyStarSudbury Star, February 23, 2008

Priest sings of Ukraine's pain; Original play tells of the horrors of Stalin's repression

By Carol Mulligan

When he was ordained a Ukrainian Catholic priest in 2005, Edward Danylo Evanko thought he had given up a career in musical theatre spanning more than 40 years.

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ArticleDisplayPhotoaspx1When he was ordained a Ukrainian Catholic priest in 2005, Edward Danylo Evanko thought he had given up a career in musical theatre spanning more than 40 years.

But he had hardly settled into the life of a cleric before he was back on stage performing a one-man play about the life of beatified priest Father Damien and his own work about the Ukrainian Holodomor. Evanko visited Sudbury this week and presented both pieces of theatre to appreciative audiences at St. Mary's Ukrainian Catholic Church.

Thursday, he performed "Damien," Aldyth Morris's two-act play about the Belgian priest's work among lepers in Hawaii in the late 1880s. The performance benefited the Blue Door Cafe.

Friday night, he performed "Be Well and Prosper, My Beloved Ukraine," a presentation of songs and writings - some by eyewitness survivors - commemorating the Ukrainian famine-genocide or Holodomor of 1932-33.

The latter he created after he was asked by a Ukrainian Catholic priest in Toronto to do something to commemorate the Holodomor.

"I said, 'Father, I can't do it,'" Evanko recalled in an interview Friday in the lounge at the Ukrainian Seniors' Centre.

Newly ordained, Evanko was ministering to 12 parishes in western Manitoba and didn't know where he would find the time.

The other priest said, "Well, I'll send you some books," and Evanko said he started "reading and reading."

By the time he finished reading the material, he thought: "I've got to do this. There is no question. I've got to do this."

The writings of survivors "set me on fire," says Evanko, who is 69, but looks 15 years younger.

Presenting the material in lecture form could have got "a little boring," he says, faking a snore.

Instead, he decided to take those "wonderful, personal stories" and tell them theatrically.

As he pieced material together, he began thinking of Ukrainian songs and church hymns that would fit the characters in his performance.

Singing is natural for Evanko, a talented tenor who studied singing and acting at the Old Vic Theatre in Bristol, U.K., before making musical theatre his career, playing stages in New York, London, Stratford and twice at Sudbury Theatre Centre.

"When doing musical theatre," says Evanko, "you speak and speak and speak, and then you can't speak any more. So you sing. The temperature gets raised so you have to go into song."

The result is an 80-minute piece of theatre that educates people about the genocide of between seven and 10 million people in eastern Ukraine under the Soviet rule of Joseph Stalin.

"There was an Iron Curtain, a total blanket, drawn around eastern Ukraine" in 1932 and 1933, and the rest of the world didn't know about Stalin's attempts to collectivize Ukrainian farmers and "just get rid of Ukrainians," says Evanko.

It wasn't until the 1990s, after the opening up of Ukraine, that people learned what had occurred there during the early 1930s.

People who experience his Holodomor presentation are moved, often to tears. But more importantly, they are educated.

Evanko says he even found a darkly humorous piece in the survivors' writings and has incorporated it in his show to provide comic relief to the serious subject matter.

Evanko will take both "Damien" and "Be Well and Prosper, My Beloved Ukraine" to audiences at World Youth Day celebrations in Melbourne and Sydney, Australia, July 15-20.

Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to attend and Evanko is "hoping, praying that he might come."

The subject matter of both performances should appeal to the Holy Father. Father Damien was beatified in 1995 by Pope John Paul II and a second miracle has been confirmed, "so he's up there to be St. Damien," says Evanko.

"He was such a rebel, such a real James Dean kind of guy."

His life was filled with obstacles and his efforts to surmount them make for high drama.

Evanko's production of eyewitness Holodomor accounts and sorrowful Ukrainian songs is powerfully compelling.

There's a reason those traditional Ukrainian songs were written in the minor keys.

"It's part of the fact we have been an overrun people for so many centuries," says Evanko. "The Turks, the Poles, the Russians, the Austrians, the Soviets, constantly.".

RichmondReviewRichmond Review, January 23, 2008

Theatrical Intervention

By Matthew Hoekstra

Father Edward Evanko is seated in a wooden straight-back chair, a coffee cup in front of him. Linoleum covers the floor, pictures of priests dot the walls and a faint smell of cabbage is in the air.

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boxPhoto2Father Edward Evanko is seated in a wooden straight-back chair, a coffee cup in front of him. Linoleum covers the floor, pictures of priests dot the walls and a faint smell of cabbage is in the air.

His Railway Avenue church is steps away and the ground-level of his residence is effectively a church basement, where meetings are held and cabbage rolls made.

Almost 40 years ago, Evanko stood on a Broadway stage singing “There’s the Moon” with Sandy Duncan in The Canterbury Tales, launching a lifelong career in show business. But a few years ago, Evanko got the ultimate casting call. Not from an agent, but from God.

At age 62, the tenor decided to devote his life to the man upstairs and join the priesthood. He studied a year in Rome, a year in Washington D.C. and another two years in Ottawa to earn a master’s degree in theology. He was ordained as a Ukrainian Catholic priest in the same Manitoba church he was baptized in, and stayed in the province for the last two-and-half years serving a dozen rural churches.

Now 69, the youthful man with a salt-and-pepper beard is focused on bringing his parishioners at Blessed Virgin Mary Ukrainian Catholic Church in Richmond closer to salvation—but he hasn’t left the stage entirely.

Born in Winnipeg to Ukrainian immigrants, Evanko discovered a natural gift for singing. During trips to the grocery store with his sisters, he always had a song on his lips. After leaving his hometown in his early 20s, he studied singing and acting in England, performed at the Stratford Festival and toured with opera companies.

When he returned to Canada, he found regular roles on TV, and his Broadway debut paved the way for the next two decades of leading roles on the stage. In recent years, he’s found roles on movies such as Double Jeopardy and in TV series such as Chicago Hope, Third Rock From the Sun and Cold Squad.

His calling came while living in Vancouver. Following a reading at Holy Rosary Cathedral, a chat with an associate pastor led to a suggestion that he enter the priesthood. Evanko was taken aback. He cried.

“It just felt so right. The minute the priest said this to me, I said, ‘Yes.’”

He took to the priesthood “like a duck to water,” finding his acting skills in communication were a big help. And, in the Ukrainian Catholic tradition of singing liturgies, his unwavering and ageless voice has also come in handy.

“There are many many parallels to an actor’s life. It’s only when you see bad actors that you think, ‘Oh, acting going on.’ When you see Robert Duvall, you think, ‘This is some character he’s playing. I don’t see any acting going on,’” he says.

“Singing to me is like speaking. It’s that simple. Like bad acting draws attention to itself,” he says, breaking out a mock opera voice, “bad singing draws attention to itself as well.”

Getting God’s call at age 62 had its advantages. One of the first things he told a group of seniors at a home in Shoal Lake—a rural Manitoba community he served in—was that he’d find it difficult to try to teach or edify them if he were a priest in his 20s.

And he hasn’t entirely left acting behind. Today, he has a couple of one-man plays in his pocket: Damien, an 80-minute play about a Catholic missionary who devoted his life to ministering to lepers in Molokai, and Be Well and Prosper, My Beloved Ukraine, a play he wrote on the famine/genocide of 1932-33 Ukraine that killed seven to 10 million people during Joseph Stalin’s rule.

“I had no plans to perform. Once I became a priest, I would be a priest and I would have my parish—parishes in the case of Manitoba—and I would have my liturgies, teach catechism, baptize and bury and marry,” he says.

But after the father of a young priest nearly died after donating his kidney to his son, Evanko saw acting as a good fundraising vehicle. Now he continues to raise money for charities by mounting the plays across Canada and, this summer, Australia and Hawaii.

“It’s just been a total joy. It’s just so emotionally rich.”