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March 30, 2012

Footsteps of faith

Man walks from Crawfordsville to visit Saint Mother Theodore Guerin holy site

TERRE HAUTE — Moved spiritually by a CNN documentary, 19-year-old Andrew Domini set out on foot from Crawfordsville early Tuesday as part of a pilgrimage to the shrine of Saint Mother Theodore Guerin.

Once there, he prayed for an elderly friend who has pancreatic cancer. “It doesn’t seem like he has too long to live,” said Domini, a New York native who attended Wabash College last year. He is currently taking a break from his studies and living with friends in Crawfordsville.

Domini had been flipping television channels earlier this month when he watched a CNN documentary that featured Mother Theodore and outlined the process of becoming a saint in the Roman Catholic Church.

He thought to himself, “I have a sick friend and maybe it will benefit him by coming to this holy place.”

The elderly friend with cancer didn’t know about Domini’s plans.

“The world wouldn’t be the same place without him,” Domini said Thursday morning at St. Mary-of-the-Woods. “He’s just one of those people who gives and cares, with nothing expected.”

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.

Next week, she expects visitors from New Hampshire and Tennessee. People are asking for anything and everything available about Mother Theodore, including books and prayer cards.

Many are seeking Mother Theodore’s intercession for health problems, and in some cases, financial problems. “It’s been a lot of fun. It’s fascinating. Every day’s different,” Craven said. “These are Catholics and non-Catholics alike, which is so neat.”

Domini said his pilgrimage has given him greater awareness “that I can try to do something and there is a world I can try to help.”

He was moved by one of Mother Theodore’s quotes, which he read at her shrine. He memorized it:

“What have we to do in order to become saints? Nothing extraordinary, nothing more than we do every day. Only do it for the love of God.”

He has taken her words to heart. “Although I probably fail miserably sometimes, that’s the goal I aspire to,” he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

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