This is the sort of thing that gives you hope for the next generation:
Andrew Domini’s feet were blistered and bloodied. He could barely walk by the time he finally made it to a pink marble church and crawled the last 90 feet to a quiet shrine tucked into the corner.
As he paused a couple of weeks ago in front of the wooden coffin that held the remains of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin and prayed, the 19-year-old said he finally felt at peace.
Domini had walked nearly 70 miles, becoming an unlikely spiritual pilgrim. But the religious shrine wasn’t in Rome, Jerusalem or some other officially holy city. It was in St. Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana.
And Domini’s spiritual quest had begun in the most modern of ways: flipping channels on the couch.
“I was watching ‘Law and Order’ reruns one Sunday, but there was a commercial,” Domini said. “So I grabbed the remote and landed on CNN, and there was this sister talking about this saint and what she meant to her.”
“There was this regular kind of guy with eye problems who prayed to Mother Guerin and was cured – that made me stop,” Domini said. “By the end of the program I knew exactly what I needed to do.”
An aging friend of Domini’s who lives nearby in Crawfordsville, Indiana, had been diagnosed with stage IV cancer six months earlier.
“He wasn’t doing well, and he’s the kind of guy who gives so much and doesn’t expect anything in return,” Domini said. “I wanted to do something for him.”
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Domini could have driven to St. Mary-of-the-Woods, where the Mother Theodore shrine is located, but instead, “I decided to walk because I wanted it to be a sacrifice. I wanted there to be something given of me,” he said.
Early Tuesday morning, while it was still dark, he began his journey from Crawfordsville toward Greencastle. “I just kept walking and walking and walking,” with an occasional short break. By mid-afternoon, he made it to Greencastle, “and I was tired.”
He decided to spend the night in Greencastle but had trouble finding a place to sleep, he said. He asked at two churches, where he was “gracefully” told no each time, he said.
Domini went to the DePauw University union building, where he slept on a couch for a few hours but then was asked to leave, he said. He rested for a while on a park bench at the Greencastle square, but it began to get cold outside.“I didn’t bring too much,” he said, other then a small backpack with socks, water, a candy bar and clean T-shirt. “I wanted to leave it up to Providence, that God would take care and everything would work out,” he said.
Eventually, he slept on a couch in an empty building, he said.
When he awoke Wednesday, he continued his pilgrimage. Just outside Greencastle, a couple offered to drive him to Terre Haute. “My feet were blistered by then,” he said. The ride “was a lifesaver.”
Once he arrived in Terre Haute, he continued walking the several miles remaining to St. Mary-of-the-Woods.
Once there, “I saw that sandstone spire peeking up and I said, ‘Oh I’m so close.’ I made a beeline, crossed the grass, got inside the church [Church of the Immaculate Conception]” and went up to the altar. “I prayed for my friend.”
Soon, he was approached by Sister Jan Craven, coordinator of Mother Theodore’s shrine. “She came up to me and started talking to me, and I shared why I was here. She was fascinated by that,” he said.
The two walked to the shrine, near the altar, and prayed together. She also took him to the Blessed Sacrament Chapel located next to the church.
Craven offered to put him up for the night in Owens Hall, where about three dozen Sisters of Providence reside. He stayed in a visitors’ wing, where his new found “grandmothers” doted on him, even providing him with Epsom salts to soak his sore feet.
“I think he’s a wonderful young man — full of ideals,” Craven said. “He felt compelled to come here for his friend.”
While baptized a Catholic, Domini is not a practicing Catholic, although he said he does attend different churches.
The Sisters of Providence “are wonderful people,” he said. “It’s a beautiful campus. … I feel peace here.”
He said he may return to visit — by car. Sisters of Providence planned to transport him back to Crawfordsville.
Domini said he was not looking for attention or publicity for what he did, but was convinced by Sisters of Providence staff that his story could help other people.
Craven noted that since the CNN documentary aired, interest in Mother Theodore has soared. “It’s been extraordinary. My life has turned inside out,” she said. The first week she received 92 emails and many phone calls from across the country.