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NEW YORK, April 18, 2012—The Christophers announced today that Mother Dolores Hart – a former actress who became a Benedictine nun, and was recently profiled in the Academy Award-nominated HBO documentary “God is the Bigger Elvis” – will receive the 2012 Christopher Life Achievement Award during its 63rd annual Christopher Awards ceremony on Thursday, May 24th.

            As part of the annual Christopher Awards which recognize books, films and TV/Cable programs that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit,” the organization also presents special Awards to worthy individuals and achievements, one of which is the Life Achievement Award.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s, Dolores Hart enjoyed a successful acting career that led her to co-star in movies with Robert Wagner, Anthony Quinn, and Elvis Presley.  She became the first actress to kiss Elvis in a movie, and portrayed St. Clare in the film “Francis of Assisi.” Though she enjoyed her time and work in Hollywood, Hart felt an even stronger spiritual call from God that led her to give up the acting life to become a cloistered Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn.

            Though life at the Abbey focused on prayer, practical duties, and visiting with people who come there for retreats, Mother Dolores never fully left behind her connection to the arts. In 1982, Mother Dolores’s close friend, Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Neal, helped build The Gary-The Olivia Performing Arts Center on the Abbey grounds which would come to host community productions ranging from Love Letters to The Music Man. In an interview with the Hartford Courant, Mother Dolores explained the importance of the theater saying, “The arts are a basic need because [they] open what is holy in people, and teach them how to live together.” She hopes to expand the arts center and create a year-round arts school for young people there some day.

            In addition, Mother Dolores remains an active member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, giving her a vote to help determine each year’s Oscar winners. She watches the movies on screener DVDs and invites her fellow nuns to see the good ones.

            Along with the blessings of Mother Dolores’s life came challenges, particularly her battle with peripheral neuropathy which she has dealt with since 1997. At first, the condition, which affects a person’s ability to walk, went undiagnosed and left her wheelchair bound, thinking she was going to die. Finally, New York City doctor Norman Latov discovered a treatment that eased her symptoms and has helped restore her ability to walk. That suffering taught Mother Dolores an important lesson. She said, “You have to become dependent on the gift of human beings, and you discover that God is an incarnate reality. In the beginning, God was always a pie-in-the-sky reality. Now I had to realize that Jesus was there through the people who were assisting me, caring for me and doing the things that were bringing me through.”      

The Christophers, a nonprofit organization, is rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of service to God and humanity.  The ancient Chinese proverb —“It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness”— guides its publishing, radio, online and awards programs.


To read about the 2012 James Keller Award winner, Click Here.


To read about the 2012 winners for Books, Films and Television, Click Here