Did you ever hear about the Hollywood actress Dolores Hart, a movie star of the 1950s and 60s. She is purported to have given Elvis Presley his first movie kiss during the movie King Creole in 1958. Shortly after playing Saint Clare of Assisi in the movie Francis of Assisi, Hart entered a Benedictine community of cloistered Catholic nuns at the Monastery of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut. In 2001 she was elected Prioress (assists the Abbess of the community) of the community. She is the only nun to be a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (givers of the Oscars).
A few interesting interviews with Mother Dolores Hart, OSB.
Dolores Hart: How a movie actress left Hollywood for a contract with God by Barbara Cloud, for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (April 08, 1998)
… she never saw herself as a nun.
“It was not a lifelong dream,” she said. “I did not grow up wanting to be a nun. I wanted to be an actress. If it had ever been suggested I would one day be a nun, it would have been the last thing on my mind. It was a million to one shot I would ever be a nun.”
… Mother Dolores calls her life as a Benedictine nun “an island of enclosure.” It is a monastic life that includes prayers at several hours of the day, including 2 a.m. It is a structured life with little time for much else than handling chores on the farm and woodlands involving 359 acres. The land maintains the community, the group of 40 women of various professional backgrounds.
From the Glitter of Hollywood to the Quiet of a Convent by Barbara Middleton for National Catholic Register (July 10-16, 2005)
… [After starring in the movie Francis of Assisi], I met Pope John XXIII, and he was very instrumental in helping me form my ideas about a vocation.
When I was introduced to the Pope, I said, “I am Dolores Hart, the actress playing Clara.” He said, “No, you are Clara!” Thinking he had misunderstood me, I said, “No, I am Dolores Hart, an actress portraying Clara.” Pope John XXIII looked me squarely in the eye and stated, “No. You are Clara!” His statement stayed with me and rang in my ears many times.
Hollywood star turned nun helps Waterbury group by Tracy Simmons for the Republican-American (May 31, 2008)
… She found herself asking what life is about. Hollywood gave her everything she wanted, she said, she was even engaged to Los Angeles businessman Don Robinson. She told him, however, that she wasn’t sure if it was the right thing to do and called the wedding off six months after the engagement. “It would make a heck of a good movie wouldn’t it?,” she joked.
She told him she had to go to Bethlehem to visit the convent again. “I walked up to the hill (on the 400-acre property) and I thought to myself this is it. I’ve got to do this,” Hart said. Six months later she announced that she “had an affair to take care of.” “They thought it was a guy,” she laughed.
She arrived at the convent in a limousine. “I arrived at Regina Laudis in style.” But she said the transition wasn’t easy.
“It was the hardest thing possible. The first seven years I wanted to quit, to turn around,” she said. “But when the seed finally sprouted and I knew God was there and it was the right thing to do, I don’t think there was anything in my life that made me happier and I would never, ever change my mind.”