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Unlikely spiritual pilgrim walks 70 miles from frat house to shrine
Though he's not Catholic, Andrew Domini walked for two days to reach a Catholic shrine in Indiana.
April 14th, 2012
01:10 AM ET

Unlikely spiritual pilgrim walks 70 miles from frat house to shrine

By Jen Christensen, CNN

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.”

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“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.”

Without telling his friend, Domini - who isn’t Catholic and said he has tried out different churches but considers himself more spiritual than religious - said he decided to take a long walk in search of spiritual assistance.

The TV program that had caught Domini’s attention was "CNN Presents," which aired the story of Mother Theodore Guerin, who arrived from France with a small group of religious sisters in what was then hostile anti-Catholic territory in Indiana in 1840.

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Bringing almost nothing with them, the sisters quickly built a community that would improve the lives of hundreds of Hoosiers. Guerin built eight schools, three orphanages and founded the Sisters of Providence at St. Mary-of-the-Woods.

Today, the congregation includes more than 350 women who educate and care for thousands all over the world.

After nearly 100 years of trying, the sisters finally got the Vatican to recognize Guerin as a saint - the Roman Catholic Church’s highest honor - in 2006.

“I wasn’t even raised Catholic,” Domini said. “But after seeing the show and after hearing about her journey here and what she did, I knew I had to go.”

Domini, who is taking a break from his second year at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, could have driven but said he “wanted to walk.”

“I wanted it to be a sacrifice,” he said.

So walk he did. After mapping out his journey online, he threw a candy bar, a lighter (he couldn't find a flashlight), change of shirt and socks and some money into his backpack.

He left his Wabash College fraternity house around 5 a.m., walking without headphones or company and trying to think only of his friend.

“I wasn’t lonely at all. I was actually fascinated by how things kept working out,” Domini said. “I trusted in providence like Mother Guerin talked about.”

The first day he made it some 30 miles, walking along highways and country roads.

The trek was mostly quiet and uneventful, though a state trooper stopped Domini about 15 miles outside of town. Domini gave the officer his name and explained his pilgrimage, and the trooper sent him on his way, with encouragement.

“The only real hazard was the trucks,” Domini said. “They would come so close I would have to jump off into the grass, and they were so loud sometimes it was hard to think.”

It was also hard to find lodging that first night. “I asked for sanctuary at a couple of churches, but they told me they couldn’t do that,” Domini said.

Eventually he found a couch at a student union building in Greencastle. After security asked him to leave, he tried a park bench and then a couch inside an abandoned bank building.

The next day, he walked 12 more miles. By that time his feet were blistered and bleeding.

But a couple saw him on the side of the road and asked if he needed a ride. They happened to be heading in his direction and dropped him just outside Terre Haute. He went about 10 miles in the car before walking the last couple of miles to St. Mary-of-the-Woods.

“As I stepped on the grounds, it all felt so peaceful,” he said.

After praying at the shrine for his friend, he visited the Sisters of Providence’s welcome center, watching a video about the Saint Mother Theodore’s life.

The small museum is filled with earthly reminders of Guerin’s humanity: her tiny shoes, a sewing basket, her wooden writing desk.

Domini was particularly taken with a quote of Guerin’s: “What have we to do in order to become saints? Nothing more than we do every day. Only do it for the love of God.”

At the museum, Sister Jan Craven, who now runs the shrine, approached Domini.

“I swooped him under my wing to find out what brought him here,” Craven said.

Since CNN’s program on Mother Guerin ran last month, Craven said her workload has tripled as she’s received hundreds of calls, e-mails and letters. One couple from New England made a detour on their drive home from Florida.

“Another lady from Vegas called and asked me to send her everything I’ve got on Mother Theodore,” Craven said.

Craven said that many of Guerin’s new fans ask for help for sick friends, for lost jobs, for peace. Like Domini, many aren’t Catholic.

“I tell them I don’t think God is Catholic, and they look at me like I’m nuts,” Craven said. “God is much bigger than any one religion.”

When Craven asked Domini if he had anything to eat, he told her he’d been fasting. She took him to the dining hall to eat with the sisters and offered him a room in the men’s wing of the facility.

“I warned him he was going to be doted on by a lot of grandma-types,” Craven said.

Domini spent two days with the sisters, who told him about what Saint Guerin had meant to them and about their service.

“We’ve been told by a lot of people that when they come onto the grounds, they feel a real sense of peace that we are this oasis in this modern jungle,” Craven said. “We feel this, but because we live here sometimes we need a reminder. Andrew did just that.”

At the end of his stay, the sisters gave Domini some books, prayer cards and notes and asked him to come back soon.

Domini hadn’t been able to tell his friend, Fred Lewis, about his walk until Thursday. Lewis, in his 60s, had been too ill to receive visitors but was well enough Thursday to drive to see Domini after reading about his pilgrimage in a local newspaper.

Lewis still looked unwell, Domini said, but he thinks the trek was nonetheless worthwhile.

“I’ve been inspired,” Domini said. “I trusted in Providence to get me through this just like (Mother Guerin) did with her journey.

“We are here to make the world a better place,” he said, “just like the sisters do every day.”

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Journeys

soundoff (843 Responses)
  1. andrew

    you know, I've been on both sides of the fence when it comes to religion. I won't lie, I've mocked believers and I've mocked non-believers, both for their arrogance and their hateful words. I was raised catholic, so I do carry around a lot of guilt and all these other "hiccups".
    That being said, I don't think there's a Heaven or Hell as I have been taught. I also think we make create our own version of Heaven or Hell right here on Earth I think this teen was just trying to make a sacrifice to show a friend that he cared deeply about his situation which he has no way of helping. There's nothing wrong with what this kid did, it was a very nice gesture. I'm sure most of you haven't walked 70 miles in the past year. If anything he got in alot of cardio and had some time to contemplate. I'm sure his mind was put more at ease about his friends condition than say, if he took a four day vacation on the beach. Good for him.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  2. palintwit

    Anybody know if nuns watch nascar?

    April 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  3. Rhonda

    Thanks for the heart warming story. 🙂

    April 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
  4. Josie

    I think more people should do this, it's not always the goal but the journey that matters. So he decided to walk to a shrine instead of sitting down and watching tv or studying. I give this kid props....

    April 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
  5. ted

    I think this is a nice story but what I don't understand is if he was really doing this for his friend why did he take so long to tell him? Also, if he was doing this as a humbling experience how did it end up in the paper where his friend saw it? Most truly humble people don't do something like this then announce to anyone who will listen what they did and have it appear in public news.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • andrew

      I doubt he called the media, his parents and peers were probably very impressed and wanted it to be known. Now, I'd doubt his humility if he got a Merril sponsorship out of this.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Rhonda

      It doesn't say how the media found out, but if he didn't even tell his friend, because this was between him and Providence, then I'm quite sure that he didn't tell the media. My bet is that someone at the church told CNN, because after all, CNN had just done a story on them....

      April 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • andrew

      They did mention doting grandmother types! I think all our grandmothers would be sending a letter to the president if we did this, mine would, lol! They were proud of him.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  6. gabbyann

    You can debate religion until the end of time and not agree. The point is he found the peace and serenity he was looking for and desperately needed. Of course his friend will still die – we all will eventually. For someone so young (from my point of view) he is very wise.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • tony

      Only if children are given religious belief in the first place. Properly educated adults wouldn't be able to comprehend what you were were talking about otherwise. Harry Potter is fiction and they wouldn't debate about his becoming real.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  7. Salero21

    So... what in the world does any of this means? Is really stupid that someone who wants to pray can't do it right where he is! You don't have to walk 70 miles or 7 yards to nowhere to pray. This is so ridiculous! If you really believe you can pray wherever you are. Just don't make a public show of it!

    April 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Betty Z. Smith

      and people showing off by doing marathons for "causes" could just go to the gym and work out an extra hour, or several hours...they don't have to show off.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Betty Z. Smith

      God used this young man to remind the world that God still exists. Yes....show it off.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  8. The Central Scrutinizer

    “Never do business with a religious son-of-a-b.itch. His word ain't worth a s.hit - not with the Good Lord telling him how to f.uck you on the deal.”
    ― William S. Burroughs

    April 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • Betty Z. Smith

      Beelzbub...you show up everytime God's nature is invoked...makes you quiver, doesn't it Lucifer?

      April 14, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • The Central Scrutinizer

      Nope I am just here to enforce the laws that haven't been passed yet.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  9. Peikovianyi

    We already went through the Dark Ages. Once is enough. Just look at the Taliban if you don't believe it.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • tony

      Or the Spanish Inquisition, Or Copernicus, or the Salem trials, and so on,

      April 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  10. tony

    The light required to see here on Earth, left the center of the Sun several million years ago. Were that not the case, no nuclear power station would work either.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • Bob

      What? Are you an idiot? It doesn't take "a few million years" for light to get from the sun to Earth... You should do some fact checking before you spout off idiotic things in some vein attempt to demonstrate that there is/isn't a God.

      Besides, what does it hurt you if this guy decides to walk 70 miles? It doesn't; leave it as it is. Let him do what he wishes with his own life as, hopefully, he does with you. Pick your battles, man. Something which effects no one other than the person doing it should never be your concern.

      It's his life. Let him live it.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
  11. LouAz

    70 miles, huh ? Guilt is a powerful emotion isn't it ?

    April 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  12. tony

    If the nut-cases left our children alone, in less than a hundred years, we wouldn't have any nut-cases left.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • RebHart

      Which means people like you wouldn't be here. Hmmm...wonder what that world might look like??

      April 14, 2012 at 7:59 pm |
  13. Bootyfunk

    "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."

    religion is unhealthy

    April 14, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Betty Z. Smith

      but folks stand on sidelines as people doing 60K marathons and some drop dead before they finish...now that's stupid.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  14. tony

    You can't be sane and believe in a loving god and the Tsunami deaths at the same time. But there is evidence of the latter.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      You can't form an educated opinion on anything without studying a subject from any and all angles.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • tony

      What part of 250,000 mostly innocent, and a high percentage of women and young children being drowned don't you understand?

      April 14, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Guest

      You still don't have a valid argument. read the bible and then you are allowed to fully rip-it apart and slander it all you want. Tony you can't say people are wrong because you know as much as they do. if you knew all the answers you wouldn't go on the internet to express your views like an insecure religious nut. why don't you just live with your beliefs and let other people believe what they want, it's their choice. do you really have that much time on your hands to fight with a being you proclaim is imaginary? you might as well be talking to a wall.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  15. Hadenuffyet

    Think of any question , maybe you'll find an answer , maybe not , there are no guarantees , only more questions , ultimately the question will simplify to "WHY".

    April 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • tony

      Not in your case.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      And that's your enlighten response? Personal attacks , to do what , prove you are "better" than someone else? You sir are definitely not part of the solution.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • tony

      Question. What color are the Goddess Athene's eyes? The answer is not "why".

      April 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      Why do they have any color at all.....

      April 14, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • tony

      They????

      April 14, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Bob

      they /T͟Hā/
      Pronoun: Used to refer to two or more people or things previously mentioned or easily identified.

      Yes, "they"; as in the plural pronoun. When describing two things you shouldn't use a singular pronoun...

      Once again; think before you speak. You don't even have to be religious to appreciate that statement.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  16. Betty Z. Smith

    Wow...what a wonderfull gift this young man gave to his friend, and serendipitiously to himself. In our age of consumerism, drugs, crime, devil worship, witchens, etc. how very refreshing to find a young soul connecting with his creator.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • tony

      USB, Blue-tooth or land-line?

      April 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  17. mike.g.hall

    wow!

    April 14, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  18. tony

    Where is there any evidence of a "purpose" in life? Other than from humans who want to believe they should be important enough to have one . . . .

    April 14, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Betty Z. Smith

      The spirit is that part of humans that is able to love and experience God directly. It is found in no other animal species, since no other species can experience God or form a relationship with Him. This is purpose enough Tony

      April 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • tony

      Thanks for agreeing with me. There is hope for you yet.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  19. thecollegeadmissionsguru

    Oh yeah, what an uplifting story.. NOT, more like an idiot doing something worthless and stupid. He should have used the time and energy studying.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • mike.g.hall

      troll much?

      April 14, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
      • thecollegeadmissionsguru

        Oh, I see it's a Troll comment when it's the TRUTH... how convenient.

        April 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      Somebody s**t in your cornflakes?

      April 14, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
      • thecollegeadmissionsguru

        Just being HONEST, I know it's kind of a new concept for Faith Heads.

        April 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • Betty Z. Smith

      he learned more in that pilgrimage than any classroom could teach him.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Robb

      Using that same logic, you just wasted time you could have been using doing something WORTHWHILE when you took the time to comment...

      April 14, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
      • thecollegeadmissionsguru

        Anytime I am able to point out the fallacy of a story or statement, my time is well spent. At least I didn't walk until my feet bled to make my statement. Fail

        April 14, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Allison

      Anyone who calls someone they never met an "idiot, worthless and stupid" in one sentence, must have a problem getting along with people. Pile on if you want thecollege, I have been a psychologist for 30 years. Lighten up..it's his life, not yours.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
      • thecollegeadmissionsguru

        YAY!! Free "psychological" assistance. Thank you. Wow, I wonder whatever happened to that First Ammendment thing?

        April 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Thecollegegraduate

      I suppose you can't read? "Domini, who is taking a break from his second year at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, could have driven but said he 'wanted to walk.' " I'm proud to be a "fath head" as well as a follower of Jesus Christ. Couldn't have made it through college without him!

      April 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
      • thecollegeadmissionsguru

        Good for you. I actually made it through college and a rather long life "without him" and as I said, he could have done a LOT of things with the time other than make a meaningless walk... but hey, I'll admit it was his right to do so, as it is your right to comment, and as is MY right to comment as well. Don't you love a country that allows for those freedoms?

        April 14, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  20. kentuckyscience.com

    Therefore the principles of human evolution from an insane species require a virgin birth of Adam and Eve for the establishment of a moral and just human government (Isaiah 9:6).

    April 14, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.