About Mother Dolores Hart

Living a cloistered life is a unique calling, and for your usual nun it means a life of prayer, quiet and solitude, closed off from the rest of the world.  But Mother Dolores Hart is hardly your average nun.  Besides her duties as Prioress of the Benedictine Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn., she is also a national spokeswoman for the Neuropathy Association. 

Mother Hart was stricken with Neuropathy in 1997.  What seemed at first to be routine pain from a root canal soon turned to chronic pain throughout her entire body, making her unable to walk.  Several mistaken diagnoses led to serious complications, sending Mother Hart to the emergency room and almost proving fatal!  It was several months later that she was diagnosed with Idiopathic Sensory Peripheral Neuropathy, a disease unknown at the time to Mother Hart.  With the diagnoses, she was finally able to receive treatment and get out of the wheelchair.  She was not cured of the disease, but is able to live with the effects through treatment.  When they asked her to become a spokesman for the Neuropathy Association, Hart’s Mother Abbess said, “By all means!”

Her current life as a nun is a far cry from her previous life.  Before entering the Abbey of Regina Laudis, Dolores Hart was a growing movie star, having made her film debut as the love interest to Elvis Presley in 1957’s, “Loving You”.  After that, she was in high demand in Hollywood and went on to several more films, including another role with Presley and as St. Clare in 1961’s, “Francis of Assisi”.  She also starred on Broadway, gaining a Tony Award nomination in 1959.  She loved her work and the people she worked with.  But in 1963, Hart shocked everyone when she broke off her engagement, left Hollywood and entered the convent.  When asked to explain this call to the monastic life, Mother Hart responded, “I don’t know if it’s easy or possible to explain a vocation.  People have tried it for centuries.  The easiest way to explain it is to say, ‘Falling in love.  One falls in love with the Lord.’”  She holds the distinction of being the only Catholic nun who is an Oscar-voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In 2006, Mother Hart had the opportunity to return to California once again, after forty years away.  At the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, just three blocks from where she grew up, Mother Hart was honored at a fundraising dinner for Neuropathy.  She was joined by people from her past, such as old classmates and teachers, and by many of her Hollywood friends, including Mariette Hartley, Lois Nettleton, Paula Prentiss, Richard Benjamin, Patricia Neal and Carol Burnett.  They shared their testimony of how Mother Hart has impacted each of their lives and has helped bring them closer to God.  As Mother Hart put it, “I was moving so quickly from person to person… I just had to think… This is really an experience of the Body of Christ!”