Last night the communities of Washington and Baltimore were given an unexpected treat—an evening with a famous Hollywood actress. Well, not exactly a Hollywood actress … not anymore, anyway. Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B. was in town to tape a show at the EWTN studio next door and would be staying with our Sisters at Jeanne Jugan Residence for a couple of days. She graciously agreed to share her vocation story with the community.
Those born too long ago, or too recently, might not know who Dolores Hart is, or was. She was a rising Hollywood star in the early 1960’s, whose claim to fame seems to be (among other things) that she gave Elvis Presley his first onscreen kiss in Loving You in 1958 (she was once quoted as saying that although onscreen kisses could only last 15 seconds in those days, that kiss has gone on for over 40 years!). In 1963 she abruptly left Hollywood, fame and all the pleasures of this world to enter the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut (click here to visit the monastery web site).
In a very charming way, Mother Dolores shared highlights of her life story with us, including the following:
· Born to Hollywood parents and brought up in Chicago by her grandmother, who had no particular religion, but who sent her to Catholic school, she converted to Catholicism as a ten year old, because (at least at the outset), she craved the chocolate milk and sweet rolls that the Catholic kids snacked on after Mass each morning. She said that this fact taught her that God often uses “something sweet, something we like,” to reach us.
· Mother’s grandfather worked in a local movie theater operating the movie reels. Since he liked to nap on the job, he paid her 0.25 per reel to wake him up when it was time to change the reels. As she sat in the dark watching movie after movie, although without the sound because that would have disturbed her grandfather’s naps, she assimilated the art of acting. Later, Hollywood professionals would ask her where she learned so much about acting. Only after entering the monastery did she realize that she should have credited her grandfather for her natural acting ability!
· While acting in a Broadway play in 1958 (The Pleasure of His Company), she became exhausted and a friend convinced her to visit the Regina Laudis Abbey for a rest.
· She began visiting the monastery whenever she was on the East Coast, and slowly began to realize that it was home for her. At the same time, she was deeply marked by the leading role she played in the movie Lisa, about a Holocaust survivor who had endured tremendous suffering. Although engaged to be married, in 1963 she left her fiancé, a lucrative movie contract and everything else behind to enter the monastery.
The rest is history, as they say … HIS-STORY, as in God, her heavenly Bridegroom!