Interview With the Prioress of Regina Laudis Abbey
BETHLEHEM, Connecticut, 30 AUG. 2007 (ZENIT)
Adherence to the
Benedictine tradition of work and prayer is the key to the success of
the Abbey of Regina Laudis, according to its prioress, Mother Dolores
The Abbey of Regina Laudis is the topic of the recently released book
"Mother Benedict," written by Antoinette Bosco and published by Ignatius
Mother Benedict Duss founded the Benedictine monastery 60 years ago,
after the Second World War. She died in 2005.
In this interview with ZENIT, Mother Dolores discusses the history of
the monastery, her own personal journey from Hollywood film star to
Benedictine nun, and the personality of the abbey's founder.
Q: Mother Benedict, the founder of the first contemplative Benedictine
Abbey for women, is described in the book as strong and determined, but
also a gardener, both of flowers and of souls. What was she able to
accomplish through this unique set of personality traits?
Mother Dolores: Mother Benedict loved to garden. She said her ideal
monastic life was gardening and studying.
God had other ideas, however, and she was driven to establish a
foundation because she could see that is was what God wanted.
Mother Benedict was also a very creative, intelligent woman who
cultivated many friendships and who always had time for a crisis.
Q: Can you explain the connections between General George Patton and the
Abbey of Regina Laudis at the end of World War II?
Mother Dolores: General George Patton, Sr., liberated France as the
commanding general of the Third Army. His was the army that liberated
Jouarre, the abbey where Mother Benedict was in hiding.
Years later his granddaughter, the daughter of General George Patton,
Jr., Mother Margaret Georgina Patton, found her way to the Abbey of
Regina Laudis, and that began the conscious connection between the
liberator and Mother Benedict.
This connection continues through the whole Patton family to this day.
Q: Many convents, during the turbulent time after the Second Vatican
Council, were forced to close for one reason or another. What do you
think kept Regina Laudis not only stable, but flourishing during that
Mother Dolores: Regina Laudis suffered its own turmoil during those
years. What kept Mother Benedict going was her adherence to Benedictine
tradition in work and prayer and a dedicated program of renewal, engaged
in by the whole community.
For Mother Benedict this did not mean throwing everything out, but
taking on perennial values with a new dedication.
Q: Your own life could be a story, going from a movie star, in roles
opposite Elvis Presley and George Hamilton, to a cloistered Benedictine
nun. In what way were you drawn from your Hollywood lifestyle, to the
quiet, contemplative life at Regina Laudis?
Mother Dolores: My life will soon become a story by the good grace of my
long time friend and collaborator, Dick DeNeut, who headed Globe photos
in Hollywood for many years.
My good fortune was to have him as a professional contact who made
certain that my reputation in the press never went the way of becoming a
"starlet." I learned very early in my career that good complements held
your life intact, and I was indeed graced.
Hal Wallis signed me to a seven-year contract when I was only 17. In
those seven years to follow, I was the leading lady for Elvis Presley,
Montgomery Clift and Stephen Boyd, and I learned my trade from such
greats as Karl Malden, Anthony Quinn and Cyril Richard.
To experience the fullness of my profession through the gifts of these
artists and many more who came my way in the short years of my time in
Hollywood was a gift from God that I never had dreamed possible. Yet it
was one I had prayed for since I was a small girl, watching the films on
Saturday afternoons in my grandfather's movie projection booth.
I was watching for my Daddy who was an actor and had been whisked off to
Hollywood by a talent scout because he looked like Clark Gable. I vowed
that I would do this too.
But God had other plans for me. I had to acknowledge the vocation I had
been trying to run from for years. I knew this the first time I came to
Regina Laudis. I was finally home.
Q: In the preface of the book, you discuss Mother Benedict's wisdom on
living out one's sexuality even under the vow of virginity. Can you
describe her thoughts on this?
Mother Dolores: There is no contradiction between virginity and
sexuality. To be truly virginal is to be fully oneself. To be fully a
woman, one's sexuality must be integrated and expressed in all that one
This integration should lead to the ability to collaborate with men or
women, lay or religious, in creative movements within the community or
with laity, according to one's mission.
Sexuality is not limited to genital expression but pervades all we do.
In a life dedicated to virginity the genital expression is sacrificed,
but not the total giving of oneself to the mission.
Q: The book ends shortly after the death of Mother Benedict. Now, after
nearly 60 years since the abbey's founding, how do things look today at
the Abbey of Regina Laudis?
Mother Dolores: Today, the Abbey of Regina Laudis is blessed in a number
On July 11, the feast of St. Benedict, we were privileged to receive the
archbishop of Hartford, His Excellency Henry Mansell, for an
unprecedented ceremony of monastic consecration in which the archbishop
consecrated five members of our community who had been married before
they entered religious life. This was an enormous blessing for all of
We are also planning for the November release of our new CD, "The
Announcement of Christmas," that celebrates our work in chant covering
the season of Christmas from the beginning of Advent through the close
of the season at Epiphany.
This will allow listeners to enjoy the musical treasures of the church's
liturgy that are often hidden from the ears of everyday churchgoers.
These time-honored chant melodies for centuries have so beautifully
expressed the glory of Christ's continual coming through the ages in the
Flesh of Humanity.
There is also our own birth, in August, as the community celebrates the
ceremony of "clothing," which welcomes the entrance of a postulant into
the novitiate, reminding us that Our Lady's gift of fecundity is
ever-present in the growth of our own community.
And Regina Laudis remains hopeful for continuity as a new postulant has
arrived to fill the new novice's place in the ranks.
We are reminded in Romans 5 that it is through faith that we are in
grace and so we pray for this gift continually, that we may be worthy of
him to whom we have pledged our lives.