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. As a benefit to the religious

    I am selling insurance policies that will guarantee forgiveness of your sins and a spot in heaven. It is only $35/month for a 35 year old non-smoker.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
  2. rpupkin

    sounds like a nice kid, but what self-serving tripe of CNN to provide in-depth coverage of a story about someone deeply affected by – what else? – another story on CNN. logrolling in our time.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • who's the best

      I hope the kid gets psychological help soon.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • rpupkin

      doesn't mean he's not a nice kid. and he's got plenty of time to figure it out for himself, as more and more do each day according to the statistics. don't be a d1ck, you're giving the rest of us a bad name.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  3. gospa

    Thank you Andrew. You have realized the truth and unfortunately too many people much older than you are not as wise and as blessed as you are. Continue on the path you are traveling, spiritually. Ignore any discouragement or negative remarks from those who choose not to know God and His guidance. God Bless you always.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • who's the best

      tell us what was accomplished here?? delusion at its best?

      April 14, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Ramona

      I'll tell you what was accomplished here... there's a podiatrist in Indiana somewhere who is cashing in big time.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  4. who's the best

    of all the religion characters, satan is cool. Never did he rage or harm on anyone. In fact every picked at him and he took it all without even needing to write his own bible about on his side. Talk about humble, satan wins, hands down.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  5. Nonnie's World

    WOW! Why is it so easy to call someone out of their name or to say mean things about a person just becuse you think or believe something different! The world is made up of many different people and things and it's ok at lease he did something if one agree with it or not that too is ok, Life is rough enough for everyone at one time or another and if you don't think so just keep on living just maybe we can all pray for each other or speak kind words! Much peace and happiness to everyone who may read this blessings!!! And for those of you who don't believe in GOD it's ok because HE believes in you that's why your here on the earth.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • who's the best

      so a being who we can not prove, isn't visible, exposed only to primitive man at the time they didn't even understand earthquakes and volcanoes, is going to believe in us? How silly.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Nonnie's World, Would you be as supportive of a person who made a pilgrimage to the mecca of faeries to pray to the great fairy king? Shouldn't we draw clearer lines for the boundaries of sane and insane behavior?

      April 14, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • Ramona

      Of course I support the right of fairies to pray to the Great Fairy King. Justin Bieber fans' crazed worship of him doesn't bother me at all.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • nate

      ...or blow up airplanes to hasten the return of Allah's Last Mullah?

      April 14, 2012 at 11:55 pm |

    Back off on this guy. I am not religious in any sense of the word. But what do you do for somebody with an endstage disease? The gesture was noble and courageous and honored the man whom he sought to help. Maybe it requires courage to recognize courage.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • b4bigbang

      8.6 and 8.2 earthquakes! We are in the end-times, it's in the Gospels!

      April 14, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  7. Ramona

    Nothing like a sweet story about a young person exploring his faith, to bring out all of the trolls proselytizing their atheism to everyone.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Reality check

      odd, bet if jesus were real and came back,, the christians would be the first to deny him.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • GOD

      Ranona, give me a break, i am having some fun, usually I am very bussy attending all humans and their needs , specially the ones related to money.

      These is my only chance to tell humans, that i am not a bank, neither and employer///

      Ramona, speaking about love, I love your name RAMONA.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  8. Don'tBelieveTheLiesOfReligion

    So this young guy has an ontological crisis and comes under the thrall of religion, big deal. I await the report on how the friend with Stage IV cancer fares as the result of Andrew's "pilgrimage" and fervent praying...

    Sounds like Saint Guerin was a notable person who used her life to help others – an honorable achievement, but not magical. And, she is dead; no longer existing and unable to influence current reality. So, although Andrew's trip may have left him with some memories, it had no other effects.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • Ramona

      "And, she is dead; no longer existing and unable to influence current reality. So, although Andrew's trip may have left him with some memories, it had no other effects."

      Apparently Andrew's trip affected CNN enough to write an article and enough for you to read it and comment on it.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  9. Ben

    God is real and one day all of you will bow and acknowledge Jesus Christ is Lord. Scoff and laugh and pretend to be secure in your non-belief, but one day Every Knee shall bow and Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • GOD

      Ben Jesus Christ is the Lord for you , but my franchises are around the world, Islam, Budhism, Jews and...the list is infinite, so keep your believes to yourself becasue billions of humans like you believe differenlyt.

      Then again, you wanted to be in contact with God, here is your chance, and I giving you some special time, dont spoil it these time.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Ben, if you know god is real, why do you feel such a strong compulsion to state the obvious? You don't hear us trying to convince you that gravity is real. We actually KNOW it. It's apparent to me and anyone else who's studied human nature, that your attempt at presenting a strong stance is born of an insecurity of a weak position that you have no evidence to support.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  10. GOD

    and soorry about my gramathic, it happens when you manage to many languages

    April 14, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • Ramona

      Aunque la mona se vista de seda, mona se queda...

      April 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  11. GOD

    Hey VOICE OF REASON!!!!, who told you taht lie about God, you want proof about my existance, here I am writting to you, please attend your nearest church ASAP, and send your donations directly to heaven, I will tell you latter my Bank Account.

    How you dear!!!!!

    April 14, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Ben

      You should read in the Bible what the REAL God did to that king who let people proclaim him God. It wasn't pretty.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  12. GOD

    Thanks good shepards, keep watching Fox news, eat your meal at McDonalds, drink coke, pay your mortgage on time and please spend a fortune on your funeral, it will hekp you here in heaven.

    April 14, 2012 at 11:00 pm |
  13. Pipe-Dreamer

    One person's God is not another's God! One God to One bulding of Godliness designwhich are our bodies!

    1Corinthians 3:9 For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, [ye are] God's building

    Labour all should with their body's God!

    April 14, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  14. GOD

    I like the part where satan tell abraham to kill his son and I help him 🙂

    April 14, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • Ben

      Blasphemy will get you nowhere.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
    • GOD

      Ben you are the one blaspheming, you will receive a punishemnt in the near future.

      You wnated all your life to start a conversation with God and you spoiled, what a fool.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  15. Roman Catholic Seminarian

    Hey man,

    I'm extremely proud of you. You have to be a real man in order to pull off what you just did. Continue to follow Christ and he will enable you to do things that you could never see yourself being able to do, because he loves you. God bless you, man.

    Thanks for your sacrifice,
    a Roman Catholic Seminarian

    April 14, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Over It

      Roman Catholic Seminarian,

      As one who has a brother and 2 cousins who left the seminary and a sister who left the convent and who all eventually jettisoned religion altogether, all I can respectfully say to you is - check your premises... and verify, verify, verify.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:44 pm |
    • Roman Catholic Seminarian

      Thank you for the advice, and I am sorry to hear that about your family. During what time period did your brother and 2 cousins enter and leave the seminary?

      April 15, 2012 at 11:00 am |
  16. MaggieMcC

    Bless you, Andrew! You have found a pearl of great price. I do hope the churches that denied you sanctuary were not Catholic or at least that it was not a priest who refused you. As you must know, such pilgrimages were quite common in "The Age of Faith". Tragic that so many have no faith. And little love. As Jesus said "They will know you are Chrustians by your love." God help us to regain that in this Age of Violence and Cynicism.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
  17. Voice of Reason

    This kid is a nut job. Even the churches wouldn't give him sanctuary for rest.

    April 14, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • JT

      The churches knew he was off his rocker too. When it comes down to being forced into reality most religious people will come through but retreat back into supersti-tion once the danger passes.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  18. Voice of Reason

    There was no god, there is no god and there will never be a god.

    April 14, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • dacrookedletta

      you sir are an idiot i guess you beleive in the big bang theory. i pray that one day you change your mind. hell is very hot!!!

      April 14, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • rbsrs

      Actually the Big Bang theory does not dispel Christianity in any way. It actually supports it. But to say "there is no God" with that amount of certainty is laughable.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Voice of Reason,,,,,, ,,,,,, ,.

      Why do say there was and is and will never be a God? What real proof do you have to justify your stance?

      April 14, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Pipe-Dreamer, Funny to hear you demanding proof when you offer none in return. To an earlier point, we have evidence of a big bang. We even have a photo of it now with the CBMR. Still a photograph is not enough for some people. They have create fai.ry tales to explain reality. They are the people that demand a birth certi.ficate, and when they get one, deny its valid.ity. These are the circles you run in. History den.iers, evidence den.iers, and real.ity den.iers all find refuge in religion. Des.pite the co.gent arguments against a god exis.ting, the evidence that indi.cates to the contrary AND the lack of one tiny shred of verifiable evidence of a god, people cling to their del.usion on the premise of faith like a drow.ning man clings to drift.wood. I don't blame you for @dacrookedletta's grade school-level comment. I just want to point out the company that you keep.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • John

      "Voice of Reason" , you seem to live on this blog with no other purpose except to spread hate and ridicule people of faith. That is not much of a life. Please open your heart to the love that God is extending to you. You don't have to live the life you are living....there is more for you for this life and the rest of eternity....it's there for the taking, you just have to do it.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @John, It's a common fallacy that if someone disagrees with religion, then they hate the people that practice it. This is far from honest. Most of us have religious people in our own families and we love them dearly. Speaking for myself, I love all of mankind to the best of my ability. I do however hate the god disease that so many seem to be infected with and the ignorance that it encourages. We distinguish your fantasy from you, much the way a doctor can treat a patient for schizophrenia and at the same time can care deeply about the patient.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Ashrakay,,,, ,,,, ,,,, ,.

      Don't anyone dare get the "wrong ideas" but I do so love atheists much the way I love GLBT'ers! I do much of the time feel a sense of shamefulness for these groups because they seem to know no better. It seems to me that many an ill-person gets stuck on their physical adorations and psychosociological permeations of feel good pleasentries way too much and then they become the slaves of their dumfounded sociological masteries. But in all relatives God knows no boundaries and He will make due with that which one was or is or even may become of and in one's Life here! In death's passageways God will take you to your promised pleasentries ever far away from the otherly folks he does also ever keep safe from disharmonious divisionings! God is like that don't you know? Truly He works for miracles!

      April 14, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Ashrakay

      @Pipe-Dreamer, Yes, I've seen your off-handed comparison remark comparing atheists and "GBLT'ers" It was nonsensical then and nonsensical now. You still do not have proof or evidence of the invisible being you have conversations in your head with. Also, you disregard the fact that many of us, including myself were once just as delusional as you. We believed the same nonsense you believed in, professed it, preached, witnessed about it, and depended on it. If you want to know TRUE grace and TRUE freedom, it will come when you finally know yourself. You never can as long as you continue to look outside of yourself to the typical illusory stories you tell yourself to make yourself feel better. Freedom awaits you.

      April 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      John,,, ,,, ,,, ,,, ,.

      People dig holes for the darndest of reasons! Some dig 'em shallow but wide while others dig 'em deep and narrow! Either way, their holes get filled up with the excess baggage one has carried with them for so very long and should've ridden themselves of it a long time ago! For one to throw one's baggage onto another's lap is uncool to say the least! For one to always bellow out to others who have already "heard the Word" makes no sense! Only with the differences of opinions can there ever become resolutions to be tendered and meditated upon. I love God's wisdoms and fear His wraths! You don't have to! No one else does either!

      April 14, 2012 at 11:48 pm |
    • Pipe-Dreamer

      Ashrakay wrote to me on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 11:32 pm stating,"@Pipe-Dreamer, Yes, I've seen your off-handed comparison remark comparing atheists and "GBLT'ers" It was nonsensical then and nonsensical now. You still do not have proof or evidence of the invisible being you have conversations in your head with. Also, you disregard the fact that many of us, including myself were once just as delusional as you. We believed the same nonsense you believed in, professed it, preached, witnessed about it, and depended on it. If you want to know TRUE grace and TRUE freedom, it will come when you finally know yourself. You never can as long as you continue to look outside of yourself to the typical illusory stories you tell yourself to make yourself feel better. Freedom awaits you.

      God needs not humanisms nor humanists for him to be! Who do you think is in charge of conceptualisms? The energizer bunny? The quarks and gluons? Perhaps the electrons and protons? I stand in awe in front of those who know and yet don't know the whole of Truth!!!!

      April 15, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Ashrakay

      @Pipe-Dreamer, An energizer bunny has just as much credibility and evidence of existence as god.

      April 15, 2012 at 6:46 am |
  19. vinobianco

    i pity those who need god in order to be a good person

    April 14, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • JT

      I fear them.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  20. vinobianco

    'do it for the love of god'...what the hell does that mean? why does doing good have to be 'for the love of god?'

    April 14, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • AGuest9

      It's meaningless.

      April 14, 2012 at 10:21 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.