I was very excited to hear that Mother Dolores Hart was visiting EWTN this week to film “Bookmark” with Host Doug Keck! I ran down to the studio with my iPhone to take pictures and talk with her for this blog. What I didn’t expect was to have a conversation with her assistant, Judith Pinco, which turned out to be one of the best conversion stories I have ever heard. See if you don’t agree!
But before I get to that, I have to explain why Mother Dolores wrote the book you’ve probably been hearing so much about. It’s called “The Ear of the Heart: An Actress’ Journey From Hollywood to Holy Vows,” http://bit.ly/18YEXkK. Mother hadn’t been out of the monastery for 50 years, but when she was told that Apostolic Nuncio Pietro Sambi wanted to speak with her, she went to see him. She was told the interview would last 15 minutes. Instead, she was there more than two-and-a-half hours.
The Nuncio told Mother that the only other person who knew what he was about to say was the Pope. He asked her to make a movie about consecrated life. Mother was stunned. She said, “I’m not an actress any more. I have no contacts.” The Nuncio told her she had to find a way; that was her calling.
When Mother told the Abbess, her reaction was the same as Mother’s. “We can’t do that.” Mother said, “I know. We’ll pray.” Three days later, HBO called and said they wanted to do a movie about her life!
Mother’s assistant, Judith, tells what happened next: “Mother asked the woman who had called from HBO: ‘Do you know who Pietro Sambi is?’ ‘Who?’ said the nice Jewish girl from New York!”
Judith Pinco knows a lot about nice Jewish girls because she was one herself, except that she was not living in New York, but in Los Angeles and, instead of working for HBO, she was working as a backup singer and as an assistant to the late Donna Summer. She picked up the latter gig because Donna was a friend who needed her help, but she kept wondering why she was doing the job since it wasn’t something she had ever aspired to be!
One day, Judith “just happened” to pick up an issue of “Oprah” magazine where she read a story about Mother Dolores and her Abbey, Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Conn. Judith says she actually heard a voice say to her, “You need to go there.” She was flabbergasted.
“It’s 3,000 miles away! I’m not Catholic! I saw no sense in this,” she says. “Every few months I’d hear it again. I argued on and off for two years.”
Finally, Judith gave in and traveled to the Abbey. “The minute I put my foot on the grounds, I knew I was in big trouble,” she said. It was the beginning of a journey which would lead Judith into the Catholic Church – and her current job as assistant to Mother Dolores.
Judith also happens to be quite accomplished in using technology such as the iPad, MacBook Pro, iPhone, etc., which Mother Dolores needed to learn. She returned to Los Angles, but began teaching Mother from Los Angeles using Skype! After a time, Judith heard that “voice” once more. It said: “Now, you need to move there [meaning to Connecticut, near the Abbey].”
Judith decided she would! Because she’s 65, Judith thought she was headed into a peaceful retirement. But three months after she arrived, the Abbess said to her, “I want you to take Mother to the Academy Awards!”
It turned out that the HBO film on Mother’s life, which had been shortened to 34 minutes and entered into the short documentary category, had gotten an Oscar nomination! So in 2012, Judith found herself on the red carpet with Mother Dolores.
“Pietro Sambi died before the movie came out,” Judith says. “We figure he had a lot to do with the success.”
Why does Judith think all this happened to her? She says simply: “I had been searching for God since I was a little kid. I had a guru, I lived in India!” But this month, Judith the Catholic will become a Monastic Scholar. As she explains it, “that’s a person who uses her professional abilities for the good of the community.”
As we all know by now, Mother Dolores went on to write her memoir, and has been on a book tour of the U.S. The money raised from the sale of her book will be used to renovate the monastery, which is falling apart (http://abbeyofreginalaudis.org/donations.html).
Says Mother: “Judith makes all this traveling possible. I couldn’t do any of this by myself.”
After hearing the reason Mother had done a film, written a book, and gone on a book tour, I shook my head, and said to her, “You know, the Lord never wastes our experiences. Who would have thought?” And Mother looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said, “I would!”