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. Nate

    I live in a very small Catholic town. We tout some pretty amazing relics in our area due to our long history with Catholicism. I really don't care if some of you don't believe, but I offer you this. I have seen some things that just can't be explained. I have seen the power of prayer with my own eyes and seen amazing things happen. I have seen people speak in tongues and have met a Priest that actually did an excorcism. His story could hardly be doubted. He actually had a heart attack during the first attempt. Yet despite all these things I still doubted iGod. I moved away and it only got worse. I almost lost my belief entirely. I couldn't get over how so many can suffer if there is a God. Why is the Bible apparently wrong about some things like Adam and Eve? Where did dinosaurs come in to play? I went back to Church and felt out of place and as if someone was trying to brain wash me. I suppose that is how everyone feels when they leave God. I think you do lose your ability to follow and find him or even detect him. You feel somehow empowered but weak at the same time when you don't believe.. Once my wife and I began going to Church regurlarly I started feeling again. I began understanding that the word of God is not flawed, but man is. Also, the Catholic Church is very political and chose which books to show and which not to. Everything happens for a reason. I truly believe this now. If it wasn't for Dinosaurs for example we would have never found fossil fuels which have enabled us to get to the point we are today with plastics, oil ,etc.. We also look at this life like it is all we have. If you think in those terms it does seem awful. It is said that your pain here only helps to serve you in the kingdom of Heaven. Think about that. This life is just a blink of an eye. Eternity is what your eyes should be on. Not your own selfish needs here.. I now can see the power of prayer again and feel much more fulfilled than I have in years since I returned to the Church. I don't like discussing the events that have happened to me with others because I want you to experience it yourself in your own faith. Faith is built on love and devotion. Everyone wants a miracle or absolute proof that something exists, but they fail to see the greatest gift God has given us....Love. I am not going to shove this down anyone's throat. I just thought I could share since so many Aetheists have as well. I get your opinion and respect it, but I no longer believe it.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "I have seen people speak in tongues and have met a Priest that actually did an exorcism."

      You DO know, don't you, that you can learn how to do the same sort of thing in any high-school drama club?

      April 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Nate

      RichardSRussel .... Yes sir. I am aware. I don't believe that was the case in either of these scenarios. Also, you weren't there so ..... you can make your own assumptions based on my two lines of text. That is fine.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
  2. Nina

    Thank you CNN I love this article keep up the good work. I will follow some lessons learned here.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  3. RichardSRussell

    What an idiot!

    April 14, 2012 at 5:22 pm |
  4. What's the point??

    Rather than spend his time and effort doing something constructive or comforting for his friend, he walks 70 miles and prays. Great example of the delusional pointlessness of religion.
    Also loved how he accepted a car ride for 10 miles of the "pilgrimage".

    April 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Nate

      I thought the same thing about the car ride, but maybe that was God helping him. Think about it. How often would you stop and actually ask someone if they needed a ride if they did not throw their thumb out. Seems like it could have been a helping hand to me.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • bwhitten

      He found peace and support from total strangers and hurt nobody. You found it necessary to denigrate something that he did with out any expectation of publicity and try and turn it into something hurtful. He is by far the better person than you. You are nothing but a sad, sorry atheist.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • abc12345

      My guess is you're one of the people that either a) Thinks things are going just peachy with the world. That blindly thinks things are woderful and this direction we're headed is enlightening and better overall or b) Can't figure out why, as we supposedly get more "Enlightened" society overall is getting so much worse. I'll give you a hint. Things are going down hill. People like you are the reason.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  5. liz48

    God is a Good God...I hope Domini will read His Bible and learn to talk to God as His Friend and Dad....Every human being is a son of God even if they don't acknowledge it. Some may never go home (not in the sense of death) but in the sense of reaching out to know God (not a church or denomination); and may never ask questions from the Father. It is wonderful to just talk to God and tell Him how you feel and that you want to know Him...

    April 14, 2012 at 5:19 pm |
  6. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    April 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • jason s

      religion is not healther for children and other living things. prayer changes nothing

      April 14, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things

      April 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Ah, the 3-word idiot is back again. What a surprise!

      However, still no answer to the standard challenge "Name one!", just the unending mindless repet¡tion of the only 3 words it knows.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
    • Manuel J.

      I pity you Jason. You are the type that finds good in nothing. Somehow, I envision you cursing the world, when you breath your last.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      Prayer changes things
      Prayer is always available
      Pray without ceasing in 2012

      April 14, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Nate

      Comments like this do not help religion or make you somehow more richeous. It simply proves that you are forcing your will on others. I do believe, but am not going to make broad attacking statements like this that only serve to anger someone. God also offered up free wil so people can choose not to believe in him. If someone is not aware that there is a God or that others believe in a higher power today they would have to have been raised by wolves. They can make their own minds up. God will help them find the message if they want it. They don't have to though.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
  7. Evonix

    Why is CNN full of Belief headlines recently?
    Interesting to the faithful perhaps, but hardly appropriate for mainstream news.
    If it keeps up I'm going to lump them together with Fox as having an agenda and abandon the site.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      The CNN "Belief Blog" is a standard feature of the website, and it gets hauled up to the front page on weekends, which are otherwise slow news days (except for sports) and also the days when most people take time off from their real lives to spend a little time on religion. If you don't like it, don't read it. It's not as if there isn't plenty of other stuff to look at.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  8. cybercmdr

    Prayer works, except when it doesn't. Wishing on a star works, except when it doesn't. Wearing your lucky t-shirt works, ....

    April 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • Faithful

      Prayer works. Sometimes we don't get what we WANT, but what we NEED in response to it.

      If you don't believe in the power of God through prayer look up Jack Traynor and Gabriel Gargam – miracles in Lourdes.
      I went for a couple of years as a 'handmaid', looking after the sick. And I can tell you that the people who weren't cured found a peace and ability to accept their lives as they were.

      Jesus suffered and died. We sometimes suffer and definitely die. Suffering, with Christ beside you is strengthening and we believe that the heavier our cross, the greater the reward.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  9. Chris

    And now he isn't going to college anymore because of this. That's exactly what we need. less education and more god god god... He is more delusional as that kid who drove 965 miles to get a Doritos Locos taco from Taco Bell. The Doritos Locos Taco actually exist.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • jason s

      at least that guy got something for his journey.. a taco.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:17 pm |
    • Faithful

      Chris and Jason – I'll bet you wish you had the loyalty, selflessness and integrity from your friends as this wonderful young man has for his sick friend.

      BTW he's taking a break from college. or did you miss that?

      April 14, 2012 at 5:29 pm |
  10. eKaterina

    Not to be picky but if he walked 30 mi first day and 12 mi second day and got ride 10 mi and walked last 2 mi, then he only truly walked 44, drove 10, with 16 unaccounted for. Do I have reading comprehension problem?

    April 14, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
    • jason s

      but then cnn wouldnt have a story lol

      April 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • ssk

      CNN's never been big on details. Or accuracy.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Faithful

      To pick on a tally of miles walked shows you haven't understood anything about the essence of the article. You have a comprehension problem, full stop. Like understanding a young man who does something quite extraordinary for a friend!

      April 14, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  11. Lol

    "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"
    This pretty much says it all.
    Lol just lol.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • Faithful

      How stupid are you?

      With the abuse scandal fresh in the mind, if the churches had invited him to stay the night, people like YOU would have accused them of ANYTHING!

      This is one of the strategies put in place to protect young people AND good priests.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • Lol

      Great comeback...........

      April 14, 2012 at 5:47 pm |
  12. Kat

    Great job, Andrew! It's that first step that changes us forever.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Faithful

      Amen .

      April 14, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  13. jason s

    Whither is God, I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. All of us are murderers.... God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him...

    April 14, 2012 at 5:09 pm |
    • johnp

      So then Jason the god you speak of that you lilled is not God at all, or you could not have killed him. Sounds to me like God is dead in your heart, and that is not His fault.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
  14. Andy

    It may not seem like it to him but he just obliterated his feet and walked 70 miles for nothing. That sucks. I hope the motivation he earned from it was worth it.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:07 pm |
  15. Josef Bleaux

    Delusional fool.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • Faithful

      It's not so strange really that jealous people will denigrate what this lovely young man did for his friend. Victims of the failed American education system like yourself don't have the reasoning power to see beyond the walls of their trailers!

      April 14, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  16. Bipulendu

    I'm bothered that this article referred to his fraternity as a "frat." You wouldn't call your mother a "mutt" so please don't refer to a fraternity as a "frat." Apparently, the author was not a member of Greek society!

    April 14, 2012 at 5:05 pm |
    • Ronin

      I don't see how the two are related. Frat is just short for Fraternity. If that offends you, you have serious issues somewhere else in your life.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • Bipulendu

      You make presumptive assertions that are baseless. Also, apparently you were not extended a bid to join a fraternity.

      April 14, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
  17. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    April 14, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • DrewNumberTwo

      Prove it.

      April 14, 2012 at 5:16 pm |
    • just sayin

      You are here. God bless

      April 14, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
    • Faithful

      Drew – look up Jack Traynor and Gabriel Gargam – Lourdes miracles – then come back and tell me prayer doesn't make a difference and change lives!

      April 14, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
  18. jason s

    God is like a fairy, we have to say we dont believe in order to kill him.

    April 14, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
  19. Ryan

    God Bless all those sisters and priests who have sacrificed their all to serve the Lord in purity and truth, to demonstrate God's love to humanity by their actions!

    April 14, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  20. agentxyz

    2 things bother me: He took a lighter and he's not going to college anymore.

    April 14, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • liz48

      He was taking a break from college and the lighter is for light or fire, if you need it. I don't smoke but I always have some means of getting a fire going if I need one, when I travel long distances...

      April 14, 2012 at 5:16 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.