On Feb. 10, 2018, more than 1000 women gathered at the Catholic Church of the Incarnation for the eighth annual Women’s Morning of Spirituality. As in years past, two women speakers shared their journey of faith with an attentive audience. For 2018, the speakers were Glenna Bradshaw, Witness Speaker, and Mother Dolores Hart, OSB, Keynote Speaker.
Glenna Bradshaw’s testimony can be described as moving. She described her life as a young adult of the Sixties who enjoyed the “free” aspects of life without dabbling in drugs. She explained that her lifestyle led to pregnancy, an early marriage and the birth of her first child. Due to many factors, her marriage was short-lived, and she returned to Memphis and took refuge with her parents. As a young mother at age 20, she needed help in caring her daughter and needed more education. With her parents’ full support, she enrolled in college but soon discovered that she had become pregnant just before leaving her husband. Not wanting to burden her parents further with a second child and not ready to give up her goal of attending college, she sought help. She called a home operated for unmarried mothers-to-be and was discouraged to hear that the center housed women without children. She could not justify leaving her daughter with her parents for several months, so she made another call to an abortion provider. The contact on the phone offered a confident and quick solution if she would go to New York. At the time, the general thinking was that a fetus was “just a clump of cells,” so she had an abortion, and, “like so many women,” she felt temporary, immediate relief. Eventually, she felt a spiritual prodding to confess her abortion. The Episcopal priest who heard her confession advised that, in time, she would find herself recalling her abortion. At 22 years old, she did not think deeply about his advice, but when she found herself rethinking her decision for an abortion, she heeded his prescient advice to pray the “Our Father.” Reckoning with her decision and sincerely seeking forgiveness brought her deep spiritual awareness which put her on an active path to loving God.
The keynote speaker garnered national fame for her time in Hollywood, and for Memphians, she holds particular notoriety for starring opposite Elvis Presley in the movies Loving You (1957) and King Creole (1958). Born Dolores Hicks in 1938, she began using the stage name Dolores Hart in 1956. In six years’ time, she completed 11 film projects. Along the way, she met people in Hollywood that she found to be inspirational, including Presley, Gary Cooper and Jim Douglas. Much of what Mother Dolores said at WMOS is echoed in her 2013 book The Ear on the Heart. She advised that when we engage our hearts as we talk to others, we can reach a much deeper understanding and greater loving-kindness toward them. She described how while working on the movie Wild is the Wind (1957), she and Italian actress Anna Magnani, connected deeply by looking directly into each other’s eyes. She also realized that the effort to “hear” with one’s heart transcended acting and applied to relationships in general. “It was a tool I could use in other ways with people.”
Mother Dolores discerned a vocation to consecrated life during a time in which she received multiple marriage proposals from the same man. Although she entered cloistered life, drama and theater became part of her mission to the world. The monastery where she lives, the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut, is home to an acting troupe named The Clay & Wattles Theater Company. The company offers two productions per year. The monastery also grows fruits and vegetable, raises sheep and cattle, operates a small dairy, and sells metal works and earthen ware crafts.
In 2012, HBO released a movie titled God Is the Bigger Elvis that details Mother Dolores’ life.
The morning concluded with Mass celebrated by Monsignor Clement Machado, Vicar General, Moderator of the Curia and Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Memphis. In addition, numerous priests from throughout the Diocese heard confessions prior to Mass and concelebrated the Mass. Throughout the morning and including the Mass, music was provided by Kevin and Bethany Paige.