Domus Pacis offers respite to families battling life-threatening illness

Ecumenical nonprofit was born of Catholic family’s mountain get-away trip for dying mother

Roxanne King

In 1997, when Marylouise “Duck” White-Petteruti’s mother was dying of lung cancer and life seemed stripped of all joy, Duck, a native Chicagoan, knew a trip to the Colorado mountains would offer much needed peace and renewal. Acting quickly with doctors’ approval and help from family and friends, she and her two sisters took a final “girls’ trip” to Summit County with their mother. The results were profound.

“The forgiveness … to find love and hear laughter in her last days was extremely important,” said Duck, whose nickname comes from her mother’s calling her “Little Duckling.” “Every day to the day she died she looked at those girls’ trip pictures.”

The trip had taken the efforts of a community to pull off; God supplied the grace that brought those works to fruition. The idea for Domus Pacis Family Respite was born.

Domus Pacis, Latin for “House of Peace,” is an ecumenical nonprofit that offers individuals experiencing cancer treatment, palliative- or hospice-care, a week’s respite with family members to encourage interaction in a homelike setting. Domus Pacis provides free housing, logistical and hospitality support.

“For one week, a community of strangers plants a seed that the Lord can blossom into peace,” explained Duck. “We remove the stress and the complexity of making [a respite] happen so the family can focus on each other and on the emotional, spiritual and mental things they may be dealing with.”

 

 

 

Founded by Duck and her husband Vince in 2007, the nonprofit started the following year when it provided respite stays to eight families. Since then, it has served 1,200 families, providing them free stays at homes or lodges in Summit County. Families are referred through cancer treatment centers, palliative and hospice services. Housing is donated. Families are responsible for their own travel arrangements. Volunteers provide food. Businesses offer opportunities for fun, free activities such as biking, a dinner out or a family photo session.

“I personally experienced the power of respite,” Duck said. “Lives are forever changed.”

Claudia McClintock of Grand Junction felt the transformative effects of Domus Pacis respite when her now deceased husband Dave and father to their six adult children was undergoing chemotherapy for brain cancer.
“I knew the mountains would soothe Dave’s heart and create memories we would cherish for life,” she said. “The week far exceeded our expectations.… We felt pampered and relaxed and the atmosphere facilitated many conversations, from light to difficult.

“It brings me to tears just thinking about the generosity of so many people we will never meet. The memories we created during our week in Breckenridge are a gift for life. I bring out the photos we took to bring Dave close to me when I miss and need him.”

Robert Saum of Arlington, Va., owns a vacation property in Keystone that he has offered to Domus Pacis for a least a month annually the past five years. He is such a believer in the organization that he joined its board of directors.

Marylouise “Duck” White-Petteruti and her husband Vince founded Domus Pacis Family Respite in 2007. Latin for “House of Peace,” Domus Pacis seeks to provide individuals experiencing cancer treatment, palliative- or hospice-care a week’s respite with family members in the form of a mountain getaway. (Photo from Domus Pacis Facebook page)

“Domus Pacis is a professional organization that makes the home donor feel part of something larger and more important. The process is easy and the Domus Pacis staff make it happen very simply,” he said. “From a personal perspective, it continues to be gratifying that the peace and regeneration that we experience in the mountains can be experienced by those who truly need the time and space to be with each other.  I am humbled by the support provided by Summit County businesses and individuals who make the respite families feel welcome and loved. This community-based approach brings everyone together to support families just when they most need the support.”

As with all nonprofits, Domus Pacis is always seeking funding and board members. But the organization’s primary need is homes.

“If we don’t have homes, we can’t host people,” Duck said. “There are so many homes in Summit County that are second homes or rental properties that sit empty for weeks of the year. We resource those. They are not being utilized so why not use them for people in need of respite? We pay the cleaning. That’s pretty attractive.”

Duck and Vince, who are Catholic, now live in Breckenridge, but at the time of Duck’s mother’s illness all they had in Colorado was the undeveloped land their home now stands on, which her mom called “the dirt.” Although her mother had just weeks to live when Duck suggested that final girls’ trip, her mother insisted on traveling to Colorado see “the dirt.”

“I realized over time that she was working as the voice of God. He had this plan for Domus Pacis,” she said, referring to the trip to the mountains that gave birth to the nonprofit. “It was the dirt, the fertile ground, from which Domus Pacis was launched.”

Domus Pacis Family Respite
DomusPacis.org
Info@DomusPacis.org
970-455-8928

COMING UP: Five Colorado places named after Catholic saints

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On Aug. 1, Colorado will have made it way over the hill at a ripe 144 years old. Better known as Colorado Day, the day commemorates the founding of our great Centennial State in 1876.

The Catholic Church has a rich history in Colorado, and believe it or not, various regions, geographic landmarks and places in the state are named after Catholic saints. The San Juan Mountain Range, the San Miguel River and the San Luis Valley are but a few examples.

In honor of Colorado Day, here are five places within “Colorful Colorado” that take their namesake from a Catholic saint. You probably already know a couple of them, but the other three are real “diamonds in the rough” that are worth making the trek; in fact, two of them were built and founded before Colorado was even Colorado.

Mother Cabrini Shrine, Golden, CO

 

One of Colorado’s most popular pilgrimage sites, it’s hard not to be enamored by Mother Cabrini Shrine. Originally founded as a girls’ summer camp by St. Frances Cabrini in 1910, the shrine overlooks the I-70 corridor heading into the mountains and is as charming as it is relaxing. In addition to the praying in the chapel, visitors can stay in the old Stone House that was built in 1914 or one of the various retreat houses that have been added over the years. Aside from being a wonderful space to pray, Mother Cabrini Shrine doubles as a sort of natural Stairmaster to get those steps in with the 373-step staircase leading up to the shrine, affectionately known as the Stairway of Prayer.

St. Catherine of Siena Chapel, Allenspark, CO

Photo by Andrew Wright

Better known as the Chapel on the Rock, this functioning Catholic chapel is perhaps one of Colorado’s most iconic landmarks. As the story goes, in the early 20th century, a man by the name of William McPhee owned the land where the chapel stands, known as Camp St. Malo. McPhee was a parishioner of the Cathedral in Denver, and he often allowed the parish to take kids hiking and camping on his property. During one of those trips, several campers saw a meteorite or shooting star that had appeared to hit the earth. They went looking for it and came upon the Rock that now stands as the foundation of St. Catherine of Siena Chapel. Completed in 1936, the chapel’s official namesake is fitting, as both it and St. Catherine of Siena share a common thread of mystical experiences facilitated by the Lord. It has had many visitors over the years, but perhaps none so famous as St. John Paul II who, ever the outdoorsman, just had to make a stop while in Denver for World Youth Day in 1993.

Abbey of St. Walburga, Virginia Dale, CO

 

Photo courtesy of the Abbey of St. Walburga

Located in the picturesque Virginia Dale, a small community just south of the Wyoming border, the Abbey of St. Walburga is a place where the voice of the Lord lives in the mountains, plains and rivers surrounding it. Named for the patroness of the Benedictine nuns, the abbey was founded in 1935 when three sisters from the Abbey of St. Walburg in Eichstätt, Bavaria were sent to a remote farm in what was Boulder. There, they built a strong foundation for the future of the abbey through hard work, poverty and an immovable trust in God’s providence. Today, the Benedictine nuns of Walburga humbly carry out the good works of the Benedictine order and carry on the legacy started nearly a millennium ago in 1035, when the original Walburg abbey in Eichstätt was founded.

San Luis, CO

Photo by Jeremy Elliot

Moving into the southern most regions of the State of Colorado, the Catholic roots of the region become much more evident. The oldest town in Colorado, San Luis, was founded in 1851 on the Feast of St. Louis, and predates the official founding of Colorado as a state by 25 years. The town is located along the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, which translates to “Blood of Christ.” One of the main attractions of the small town of just over 600 is a shrine at the town’s local Catholic parish. The Shrine of the Stations of the Cross was built by the parishioners of Sangre de Cristo Parish and the beautiful stations were designed and sculpted by native San Luis sculptor Huberto Maesta.

Capilla de Viejo San Acacio, Costilla County, CO

Photo from Wikicommons

Just to the west of the town of San Luis lies one of Colorado’s oldest gems. The Chapel of Old St. Acacius, or Capilla de Viejo San Acacio as it’s known to the locals, is the oldest non-Native American religious site in Colorado that’s still active today. While the building of the church cannot be dated precisely, it was likely completed sometime in the 1860s. The namesake of the church comes from St. Acacius of Byzantium, a third century martyr. Near the church is the small village of San Acacio, which a local tradition holds got its name after one of the earliest San Luis Valley settlements, originally called Culebra Abajo, was attacked by a band of Ute in 1853. As the Ute attackers approached, the villagers asked for the intercession of St Acacius, a popular saint among their people. The Ute suddenly halted and fled before they reached the town, scared off by a vision of well-armed warriors defending it. In gratitude for this salvation, the village was renamed San Acacio, and the villagers built a mission church in honor of the saint.