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. DrewNumberTwo

    Hey, do you guys remember that disease that god wiped off the face of the Earth? Me either. You remember the ones he invented? Yeah, all of them. If you want cures for diseases, donate to science.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • just sayin

      Polio, Measles, small pox, Leprosy, pneumonia and a thousand others and variants have been all but wiped from the face of the earth by man working in partnership with God. Works in progress include heart disease, cancer and regeneration. God bless

      April 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  2. Jim P>

    He takes a long walk and a car ride and thinks he helped his friend. Odd. Could this god not have reached out to where he was? Not that anything actually happened of course, you can find faith healers on TV any time you care to ask and they will always have someone who will tell you that that particular brand of god was the reason they are healed.

    This dependance on the "magic" of dead people and their objects is disturbing.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
    • Jen

      Good call too bad it wasn't about love of and respect for the living.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:04 pm |
  3. jason s

    faith is believing in the absurd. its taking a chance on a lotto with impossible odds. People need to evolve pass their childish "religion" so we, as a society, and evolve. God isn't responsible for whats good or bad, you are. every decision you make forms and shapes the individuals you are and future choices. Im all for the bible... as stories to learn lessons from.. but you "christians" and "catholics" or whatever section of the same religion follow the bible to the T. They are stories, not to be taken literally. when you take stories literally you miss the message, you become stupid, then you create religion.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Masadaone

      Thank you for sharing your outlook on life. I see that the falsehood of your liberty continues to darken your spiritual side. Belief in Christ opens up a whole new world, a brand new dynamic on what's real, and sheds wisdom beyond belief.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • jason s

      so does extacy, which you seem to be on. good on you.

      April 14, 2012 at 6:34 pm |
  4. Jan

    I'm sorry CNN. This is not news. Its not even something worth reporting. A made up belief system and a guy who walked 70 miles? You really don't have anything important to tell us?

    April 14, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • Tufik Habib

      And yet you spent time and effort reading it. Why?

      April 14, 2012 at 5:20 pm |
  5. Jonathan Michael Brouillette

    The Gospel of Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew 25:31-46: "When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee dri...nk? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?' And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.' Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?' Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.' And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

    April 14, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  6. cantasee

    this guy has found his 15 minutes of fame.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  7. Dave123

    There's nothing wrong with faith. Everybody has faith, it's what gets us out of bed in the morning and comforts us when things get tough. However this isn't just a story about faith, yes there is a religious element, but it's a story about love. This kid was willing to walk 70 miles for someone he cared about. How many of us have been put in a situation where you're dying to do something for a loved one but you cant? You feel helpless when you can't prevent your loved ones from getting sick, dying, or befalling misfortune. That's where faith steps in. I know there's a lot of skepticism on this thread but I know there isn't one of you that wouldn't go all out for someone you loved. Religion aside, I wouldn't hesitate a heartbeat. I think this story says a lot about ourselves and what lengths we'll go through to help a loved one in need. Yeah the world can be a terrible place at times but it's things like these that show how good it can be. I say more power to this kid for standing up for someone he cared about and doing something, anything, to help a friend. Because that's what love is: going out of your way to help someone close.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • paperbottoms

      No, most people have hope, which is not interchangeable with faith. I do not have faith.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • Dave123

      1) Faith, Hope, and Charity are the three signature virtues for Christianity but that's irrelevant. 2) Hope and faith are quite interchangeable, they do the same thing. Hope is having faith that things are going to be better, you don't have to possess a faith to have faith.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
    • Bluemoon

      Dave, I enjoyed your post very much. People can’t seem to see past the cultural issues with religion to withhold the snarky comments about a story which nicely symbolizes the unique issues we face as conscious, mortal beings capable of such intense feelings like love, powerlessness, and faith.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:13 pm |
  8. Pope_Inquisitor

    religions make people so whacky. We can't progress until we get past ancient silly cult myths

    April 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • jason s


      April 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  9. Peikovianyi

    He could have whipped himself, like that albino monk in The DaVinci Code. That would have solved everything.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:47 pm |
    • agentxyz

      that's some funny stuff

      April 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
  10. Steve

    Eh, I probably would have just taken a segway.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Jerry

      You sir, you have made me laugh.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  11. jason s

    see theres the problem. religion. if it wasnt for the church we wouldnt have idiots like this. Good for you religion, you just wasted so much of this kids life that he will never get back.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • Eric N

      Really – that's your counter to the journey he took? You call the kid an "idiot" and say he "wasted his time"? Given, I'm a Catholic so I'm biased, but I fully respect the rights of other religions to practice their ways and atheists to not practice any way. You, on the other hand, find it perfectly fine to represent atheists as hateful people who are more than happy to use their "freedom" to persecute the rights of others to practice what they so desire. Not only is that prejudicial and hateful, it is also a very poor representation of the vast majority of atheists, who are kind, intelligent, insightful people who find the best path for them is to not practice religion. Anyway, I'm sure you think I'm an "idiot" who can't teach you anything, so this is likely a waste of a posting, but at least there is a remote chance that you might start to espouse what atheism is really about – doing the right thing because it is right, not because of a deity.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • rin

      ... what's so important in life that spending a few days (mostly) in solitary is considered "wasting so much of his life?"

      go ahead and try convincing people to give up their faith for the rest of your life and see if that makes you any happier. no one's stopping you.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • jason a

      Wow, jason s, you're a friggin idiot.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Tufik Habib

      Seems you are envious of his strength, and angry he reminded you of your emptiness. Let people be.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
    • jason s

      hahahhah no believe in your god all you want. I wouldnt want people like you around anyway. And hey, if there is a hell, Id Gladly go, because "there are no interesting people in heaven"- Nietzsche

      April 14, 2012 at 6:38 pm |
  12. Rainer Braendlein

    The gospel of Jesus Christ:

    God, the Father, delivered God, the Son, for our sins and raised him from the dead for our justification.

    Believe that and get baptized (if you have yet received infant baptism, just remember your infant baptism and don't get rebaptized).

    Christ's atonement is so great, because it was a divine person, who died for us. Jesus Christ was God and man at the same time. Jesus Christ was the eternal Son of God, who came down from heaven and lived a sinless life in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus remained with God even in the garden Gethsemane expecting the terrible crucifixion. Jesus is the firstborn of a new mankind, which always stays in God in contrast to Adam and his descendants (the ordinary, current mankind), which always forsake God.

    Jesus was confirmed as Son of God by the resurrection from the dead. He got not punished for own sins, but for our sins. His execution was not legitimate and God finally repealed the false sentence. The mankind falsely gave Jesus a cross, but God gave him the throne of the universe.

    The false doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church:

    Catholics presume they could add on something to Christ's atonement or complete it by their good deeds. That is a complete nonsense. Let us regard that a person of the eternal Trinity, a divine person, suffered for us and how shall we human, sinful, mortal wrecks add on something to that? That is impossible.

    There is no need for praying a rosary, veneration of saints, becoming a monk, buying indulgence, fasting, almsgiving, etc., in order to gain God's forgiveness.

    If we have sinned, we shall regard again and regard again Christ's atonement and ask him for forgiveness. We may even practice privat confession in the presence of a Christian brother.

    Our first baptism remains always valid and we can return to it every time, also if we have committed sins.

    The Roman Catholic infant baptism is valid, but if someone wants to live according to his baptism, which is a divine call for discipleship, he should leave the Roman Church, which has corrupted by papacy and become a real Christian (www.confessingchurch.wordpress.com).

    A real Christian lives a life of practical righteousness and spiritual love to his fellow human beings by the power of the Eternal Spirit. The love fullfills the law, that means the 10 commandments and the whole Torah. The life of a true Christian is not in conflict with the law, because he is led by the Legislator.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • tony

      Or you could read a different inspiring book. How about the the Lord of the Rings?

      April 14, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
    • cantasee


      April 14, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • Thomas

      One Does Not Simply Walk into Mordor. Unless you're in Indiana.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  13. tony

    God moves in mysterious ways. That's instead of actually doing anything.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
  14. Angie

    Thank you for this inspiring story; I know some people don't appreciate this and are skeptical, but this was a noble and kind gesture that will affect people, God works in mysterious ways.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  15. Hadenuffyet

    CNN should give equal time and space to an Atheist blog , give them somewhere to call home. Because regardless of whatever subject is in this one , it drags them in like a magnet.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • GOD

      Go ahead and say it: like flies to scripture

      April 14, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • tony

      Someone has to defnd the against the grooming of atheist as born children. Think "organic" produce – no unhealthy additives.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • just sayin

      It is said atheism is very unhealthy. God bless

      April 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
  16. GOD

    I tried to tell this kid that he didn't need to trek 70 miles, I could hear him just fine. Too bad about his feet.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • kyle

      it's too bad some people lack the ability to think before they post. If you had ever read the bible you'd understand that some of the best things you can do for someone are simple, but require some personal sacrifice.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
  17. Eric Hicks

    If a mentally unstable attractive woman starts off down the street one day, chances are that eventually she'll run in to a few people that were really hoping to meet a mentally unstable attractive woman...

    April 14, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
  18. howard yonet

    I'm very interested to find out if my experience conforms with statistics and other peoples , so my question is : If you are between 18 and 40 yrs old what % of your acquaintances are 1. religious 2 believe in a judeo christian god ?

    April 14, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
  19. Howie76

    Sounds something like the Janet (Janice?)Cooke case fro the 80's.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
  20. Sierra

    That must be a pretty good friend. How many people would even walk 10 feet out of their way to potentially help another human being? I wonder if Mr Domini thought that it might have been his friend's spiritual and/or emotional body that needed healing rather than the physical body.

    For those stating that prayer is a waste of time, that is your business and your opinion. Prayer does offer assistance, if for no other reason that to give a friend or loved one something constructive to do when situations are dire and out of their control.

    Mr Domini touched more than just his friend's life with his walk.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • tony

      It also does not change your life or health insurance rates. Define constructive.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Angie

      I agree! Great response.

      April 14, 2012 at 4:41 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.