Mother Dolores Hart, O.S.B., who left a promising Hollywood acting career 50 years ago, will celebrate her golden jubilee as a contemplative Benedictine this weekend at the Church of Jesu Fili Mariae in Bethlehem, Connecticut, where a Mass and celebration in her honor will be held.
In 1963, Hart was a famous actress, but she stunned Hollywood, when, after ten highly successful feature films, and at the peak of her career, she entered the Abbey of Regina Laudis, not in order to leave the glamorous world of acting she had dreamed of since childhood, but in order to answer a mysterious call she heard with the "ear of the heart."
Mother Dolores gives a fascinating account of her life and journey in her memoir, "The Ear of the Heart: An Actress' Journey from Hollywood to Holy Vows," now in its third printing.
Hart was a bright and beautiful college student when she made her film debut at 19 years old as Elvis Presley's sweetheart in Paramount's "Loving You" in 1957. Hart became an overnight success story, starring with Elvis again in "King Creole" the following year in 1958. She then took on Broadway, giving a Tony Award-nominated performance in "The Pleasure of His Company" in 1959.
Further movie hits followed, including the hugely popular "Where The Boys Are" and "Lisa," the story of a young Holocaust survivor, which earned her a nomination for a Golden Globe for Best Picture/Drama. By now one of Hollywood's rising stars, Hart went on to make six more films, among them "St. Francis of Assisi," in which she portrayed Clare, a woman who gives up everything to follow Saint Francis and founds the Order of Poor Clares. She also appeared in TV shows, including "The Virginian" and "Playhouse 90."
Hart's last film role was opposite Hugh O'Brien in 1963 in "Come Fly With Me."
In 1986, in collaboration with her dear friend the late Patricia Neal, Mother Dolores founded The Gary-The Olivia Theater, an open-air theater at the Abbey that hosts performances each year.
Mother Dolores has shown how film can be an artistic medium for spiritual growth and relationships, and by filming the community's activities over the years, she has created an invaluable documentation of contemplative monastic life. She continues to be a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Mother Dolores also is the recipient of two Honorary Doctorates: in Jurisprudence from Fairfield University and in Fine Arts from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
Mother Dolores served as Prioress for the Abbey community from 2001 until February 2015. Since 1970 Mother Dolores has been the dean of education at Regina Laudis. In this role she has established a new expression of St. Benedict's School of the Lord's Service, in which contemporary professional women can be awakened to the classical precepts of monastic life through an arduous process of self-knowledge and conversion of heart.
The Golden Jubilee of Vows will be held at 10 a.m. ET Saturday, September 17 at the Church of Jesu Fili Mariae in Bethlehem, Connecticut.