From Hollywood Actress to Benedictine Nun

Blog Published: August 2, 2008
By Sister Julie

Dolores HartDid 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.”

Archived Comments

Anonymous August 3, 2008 at 7:46 pm

A lovely post, thank you.

Jen August 3, 2008 at 11:57 pm

Cool! A monastery near me was formed from Regina Laudis. Great group of women.

Eli DeKasha August 19, 2009 at 9:59 pm

I went to St. Gregory grammar school with Mother Dolores Hart and was fortunate to be a friend of hers. Her real name was Dolores Hicks. I use to walk her from school to her home. It was a two flat and she lived their with her grandparents. I really liked her as a girlfriend, however, she never even gave me the time of day. My wife, Yasmin, and I have communicated with Mother Dolores Hart. Once she asked me to take pictures of the two flat she lived in and send them to her. I remember she always wanted two things. One to become a movie actress and second a nun. She accomplished both with flying colors. What a person!

Neil October 26, 2009 at 9:11 am

I watched her movie “Where the boys are” a week ago & because of the year I wanted to find out about Dolores Hart as her name was not that familiar. I also wanted to see how a beautiful woman would look in her late sixties or early seventies. To my shock & utter amazement did I discover that she became a nun. I am a born again Christian and have been serving & worshipping God for many years, though certainly not as many as Sister Dolores. I know if the woman I loved had done that to me I would never have recoverd from the shock. I have had enough of Christian denominations. I firmly believe we are a Christian first & foremost & should not declare I’m Catholic or Anglican or Methodist or anything else for that matter. I have tried to use my faith & time to reach out to the lost for many years now & it was a sad day for the world & her former fiance that Sister Dolores shut herself in a monastery. I just feel so sad as I do believe she could have still maintained her true belief in Christ & used her talents & beauty to reach out to the world around about her. God has never said men & women should not marry. I do think that some of the problems the Catholic “Denomination” has with their priests is the whole question af being single. Having said all that, Sister Dolores, judging by the photo above, must still be a most beautiful woman, both inside & physically. For me it’s a tradgedy. May God continue to bless her & reachout to those she can reach. Neil (Durban, South Africa)

santiago mcdermott August 14, 2010 at 9:11 am

Neil, Sister Hart is living in community in the same way that the early christian community of the apostles lived their lives. Read Paul’s letters to see what he said about marriage.It suits those who choose it. Those who choose to remain single out of devotion to God can hardly be faulted. A life of prayer and humility is not counter Christian,it is counter cultural.People refer to themselves as Catholics, Presbyterians, Lutherans for Theological reasons,for what their denominations emphasize or hold as truths. Faith for some people is an inner conviction of moral and biblical truths. We have gone so far as a christian society to believe that everyone goes to heaven.How can that be? We as baptized Christians have the opportunity to get to heaven. We make the choices.Very seldom are they selfish choices..Peace in Jesus

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