.- The Central California Marian Eucharistic Conference this January will feature a rare speaker: Mother Dolores Hart, OSB, a former award-winning actress who performed in two Elvis Presley movies and still votes for the Academy Awards.
“We feel really blessed that she is coming,” conference organizer Pat Borba told CNA on Nov. 29. “That in itself is a miracle that we got her. We thought that since she’s cloistered that that would never happen.”
The conference, the 15th annual event of its kind, will take place at the Paso Robles Event Center at a Mid-State Fairgrounds auditorium in Paso Robles, Calif. from Jan. 14-15. Its theme is “Faith That Moves Mountains!”
Mother Dolores’ scheduled speeches are titled “How a Career in Hollywood Led Me to Faith” and “The Ear of the Heart: When the Master Speaks the Disciple will Listen.”
Before Mother Dolores became a nun, she acted for the stage and screen. She starred in the 1960 teen classic “Where the Boys Are” and played St. Clare in the 1961 film “Francis of Assisi.” She also played the lead role in the movie “The Inspector.”
She won a 1959 Theatre World Award and a Tony Award nomination for her role in the Broadway production of “The Pleasure of His Company.” She has remained a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is presently the only nun to vote for the Oscar awards.
Conference organizer Gertrude McMasters explained that it is “highly unusual” for the cloistered Benedictine nun to address a conference.
When Mother Dolores received the request, she thought it would not be possible for her to go. She asked her prioress anyway.
“Her superior just looked at her and said ‘Are you ready to go?’ She was really surprised too, that she was able to come,” Borba said. “That’s why we feel there’s really a reason that she’s going to be here.”
The conference focuses on the Eucharist, the Blessed Virgin Mary and Catholic teaching.
Other conference speakers include Fr. Andrew Apostoli, CFR, who is known for his retreats, conferences and television appearances; Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers, a school safety expert; Fr. Patrick Martin, a legally blind priest and author; California vocations director and youth minister Fr. Joshua West.
Irish vocalist David Parkes will emcee the event and offer a Saturday afternoon concert.
Bishop Richard J. Garcia of Monterey will celebrate Mass at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Borba said that the organizers considered ending the conference until they reflected on how much fruit it has borne.
“We’ve talked to many people who have come. We were approached by so many people on how it had affected their lives and changed their lives, that we decided that we really needed to continue. Even the youth approached us and said ‘please don’t stop it.’”
“We’ve gotten many wonderful letters on conversions and how people have come back to the sacraments through the speakers that we have. That’s why we have actually continued,” she explained.
Attendance has varied from 400 to 2,000 people, and usually averages from 600 to 800.
For more information on the 2012 conference, visit http://www.ccmec.org.