WASHINGTON – Nearly a half-century ago, Dolores Hart was a blue-eyed, blonde actress starring next to Elvis Presley in the film "Loving You." In a switch of biblical proportions, she’s now the Rev. Mother Dolores Hart, prioress of a Roman Catholic abbey devoted to prayer and a 400-acre farm in Bethlehem, Conn.
Her unusual story is among those in an exhibit titled "God’s Women: Nuns in America" on view at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center, across the street from the Catholic University of America.
"The overreaching theme of the exhibit is one of joy, particularly the joy these women have in their vocations – in their impact on this country and its culture," said Penny Fletcher, the chief operating officer at the center.
The story of nuns in America begins in 1694 with Lydia Longley, who as a child was carried off by Indians raiding her New England village. The Indians sold her to their allies in French-ruled Canada, who sent her to the Congregation of Notre Dame in Montreal. There she converted to Catholicism, became a nun and died as one. Organizers of the exhibit know of no record that she ever returned to New England.
The exhibit also tells of three American women who have become Roman Catholic saints:
_Elizabeth Ann Seton, a New York socialite of 200 years ago who founded the first new U.S. religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s.
_Frances Cabrini, an Italian immigrant who founded schools, orphanages and hospitals in major U.S. cities. Most of her work was done in New York, Chicago, Seattle and New Orleans, but she also founded institutions in Europe and South America.
_Katharine Drexel, who in 1891 established a community of nuns to work with American Indians and blacks: the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, with headquarters in Bensalem, Pa. [Source]