One of the guests at next Sunday's Academy Awards will be a Benedictine nun. Fifty years ago she left a Hollywood movie career to join a cloistered convent. Dolores Hart, 73, is featured in an HBO documentary, God is the Bigger Elvis, which has been nominated for best documentary short category. It is scheduled to be shown on HBO in April 20 12th. The documentary covers her background involving being the star in dozens of Hollywood films and ending up in a Benedictine abbey in Connecticut where she is mother superior to 38 cloistered nuns who live in a cloistered convent which observes three periods of silence and vistors speak to the nuns through a wooden grate seperating them from the world. 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.
Heart was a 21 year old rising starlet, being compared to Grace Kelly, and had already starred in films alongside Elvis Presley, Montgomery Clift and other stars of the movies. In 1956 she was the love interest of Elvis Presley who gave her his first on screen kiss in a movie. She also received a Tony award nomination for her role in a stage play on Broadway. She was at the peak of her acting career and happily engaged to a Los Angeles businessman John Robinson.
in 1958, while staring on Broadway, she decided to take a break at the abbey where she lives now. She arrived in a studio limousine, but found she loved the simplicity and peacefulness the experience involved. After this experience she was filming in Rome as the star of a 1961 movie, Francis of Assisi, and visited the Vatican where she had a meeting with Pope John XXIII. This was the beginning of a turning point in her decision to leave Hollywood and become a nun. At the time, she was preparing for her wedding to Robinson, a Los Angeles architect, with a dress designed by Edith head and a home designed by her fiancé. Instead, she decided to break off her engagement to Robinson.She has said:
"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."
Robinson never married and visited her every year for 47 years at Christmas and Easter until his death at the age of 78 years. Robinson said the reason he never married was because " I never found a love like Delores."
As prioress of the Abbey she helped the community the support of Hollywood friends like Paul Newman & Patrica Neal. Even though a nun, she continued to be a member of the Academy of motion picture arts and sciences and is the only nun to be an Oscar voting member.
You can view an interview 20/20 did about her on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BrCT1kD0z-A