BETHLEHEM, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — In the little town of Bethlehem, Conn., a cloistered nun whose luminous blue eyes entranced Elvis Presley in his first on-screen movie kiss is praying for a Christmas miracle.

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Dolores Hart, who walked away from Hollywood stardom in 1963 to become a nun in rural Bethlehem, now finds herself back in the spotlight. But this time it’s all about serving the King of Kings, not smooching the King of Rock and Roll.

A former factory, the abbey desperately needs some modern upgrades.

So the nuns have launched a fundraiser for the $4 million renovation project dubbed “New Horizons.”

They don’t have much money, but they have Mother Dolores: a starlet-turned-supplicant whose unique story might lure the attention and donations of generations of movie fans, particularly those who adore all things Elvis.

“There is very little money out there right now and so what ever anybody can give us we’ll appreciate so deeply,” she said.

Some of the nuns are elderly and require certain accommodations and some of the upgrades require bringing the abbey up to code.

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The abbey is financially independent from the Archdiocese of Hartford and supports itself through the sale of everything from artisan cheeses and hand-crafted pottery to recordings of its choir. Mother Dolores even recently signed autographs at a New Jersey convention, a rare foray out of cloistered life as a favor for a friend, and one that helped boost the fundraising efforts.

They hope to break ground in January.

Hart acted in 10 movies alongside stars including Montgomery Clift, Myrna Loy, Connie Francis and Anthony Quinn.

Tax-deductible donations can be sent to:

Abbey of Regina Laudis
73 Flanders Road
Bethlehem, Conn.

The order also plans to offer online donation services through its website at

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