More than three years after the first of several visits to the convent, Hart was engaged to be married. But instead of becoming a wife, she says she had a spiritual calling and dedicated herself to the church and life at Regina Laudis.
For California businessman Don Robinson — Dolores Hart's fiancé — the news was devastating. "I actually broke down and cried," he recalled. "I couldn't believe it." Nonetheless, he supported Hart's decision — as well as her desire to keep that decision quiet.
A Limo Ride to the Convent
Hart's decision to enter the convent came as MGM was launching her next film Come Fly With Me. Knowing she was under a seven-year contract with the studio, she kept her decision quiet. When MGM asked Hart to promote the film on a publicity tour, she told them she wanted to visit friends. Following a publicity event, her limousine dropped her off at Regina Laudis. That was the end of Hart's life on the silver screen.
She found the transition into the sisterhood difficult. Her career in film left Hart ill-prepared for the discipline of cloistered life. Seven years passed, she says, before she felt completely comfortable with her decision to join the order.
Robinson still lives in Los Angeles and has never married. He continues to visit the woman he now knows as Mother Dolores each year. "We have grown together. Like we would have in our marriage," he says, "She's my life."
In recent years, Mother Dolores's health has declined. She suffers from a nerve condition that sometimes leaves her in extreme pain. And even though she is confident in that she made the right choice in joining the order, she says it was not a choice to abandon who she was.
"I have struggled with this call to vocation all my life," she says. "I can understand why people have doubts, because who understands God? I don't. When you are dealing with something at this level, you are dealing with mystery."
This story was originally broadcast March 23, 2001.