A reflection on life, faith of Dolores Hope

I heard the other day from Father Benedict Groeschel, a Franciscan Friar of the Renewal, who is a prolific author and host of a popular EWTN show, and he asked if he could share with CNS readers some of his reflections about the life and faith of his longtime friend, Dolores Hope, who died Sept. 19 at age 102. Dolores was a lifelong Catholic, who with her husband, comedian Bob Hope, who joined the church later in life, supported numerous Catholic causes.

Chapel of Our Lady of Hope at the national shrine. (Photo/Julie Asher)

In Washington, part of the late couple’s legacy is as benefactors of the Chapel of Our Lady of Hope of Pontmain, France, in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. And in his reflection, Father Groeschel notes that the Hopes had a chapel at their house in Los Angeles.

Dolores was “a great Catholic,” the priest writes. “When I first met the Hopes 30 years ago, I was very impressed with the fact that their home had a chapel.  Obviously it had been placed there completely by Dolores.  Although the Blessed Sacrament was not reserved there in a private home, nevertheless the local pastors, who were great fiends of Dolores, often offered Mass there as I also did.

“I had a warm friendship with Dolores because she was a girl from the Bronx and I grew up across the water in Jersey City.  We had all kinds of chats about old New York, but mostly we would talk about life and the spiritual aspects of life. Dolores was very careful, as far I can remember, never to be critical of private or public persons. Her sister, Mildred, came to live with her in her fragile old age.  After Bob’s death, the house was very quiet and prayerful.  The help were kind and gentle.

“Dolores represented a group of remarkable people who were clear-sighted and determined, and well-balanced Catholics of the old days.  It was a wonderful time in Church history; with many public figures both in the clergy and the laity.  There was always a healthy sprinkling of
devout Catholics in Hollywood.  They were led by people like Bing Crosby,  Loretta Young and Dolores Hart, who is now a cloistered Benedictine nun.

Dolores Hope (CNS photo/Reuters)

“Toward the end of her life, nearly 100 years old, one would be startled by the clarity of Dolores’s mind. She had very decided points of view on her own faith and could not be described in religious terms as a liberal or a conservative.  She was an old-fashioned Catholic.

“Dolores all her life was a realist because she had grown up in the Bronx. Her dad was a well-known singing waiter in the rather popular restaurants that were then at 149th Street, which then was main commercial street of the Bronx.

“It has often been mentioned that Dolores was very generous to the poor and to good causes, and that is absolutely true. For my own work with priests, she was a substantial help and also with the work of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal with the poor. It gave me great satisfaction to offer a novena of Masses for Dolores on her journey into eternity. I suspect that she will take that journey, as she did everything else in life, in a determined yet at the same time modest and almost self-effacing way. She did not put herself at the center of the scene. I look forward some day on the other side to meet Dolores again.”

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