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
[email protected]
970-455-8928

COMING UP: A last chance for Australian justice

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My late parents loved Cardinal George Pell, whom they knew for decades. So I found it a happy coincidence that, on November 12 (which would have been my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary), a two-judge panel of Australia’s High Court referred to the entire Court the cardinal’s request for “special leave” to appeal his incomprehensible conviction on charges of “historic sexual abuse,” and the even-more-incomprehensible denial of his appeal against that manifestly unsafe verdict.

Thus in 2020 the highest judicial authority in Australia will review the Pell case, which gives the High Court the opportunity to reverse a gross injustice and acquit the cardinal of a hideous crime: a “crime” that Pell insists never happened; a “crime” for which not a shred of corroborating evidence has yet been produced; a “crime” that simply could not have happened in the circumstances and under the conditions it was alleged to have been committed.

Since Cardinal Pell’s original appeal was denied in August by two of three judges on an appellate panel in the State of Victoria, the majority decision to uphold Pell’s conviction has come under withering criticism for relying primarily on the credibility of the alleged victim. As the judge who voted to sustain the cardinal’s appeal pointed out (in a dissent that one distinguished Australian attorney described as the most important legal document in that country’s history), witness credibility – a thoroughly subjective judgment-call – is a very shaky standard by which to find someone guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” It has also been noted by fair-minded people that the dissenting judge, Mark Weinberg, is the most respected criminal jurist in Australia, while his two colleagues on the appellate panel had little or no criminal law experience. Weinberg’s lengthy and devastating critique of his two colleagues’ shallow arguments seemed intended to signal the High Court that something was seriously awry here and that the reputation of Australian justice – as well as the fate of an innocent man – was at stake.

Other recent straws in the wind Down Under have given hope to the cardinal’s supporters that justice may yet be done in his case.

Andrew Bolt, a television journalist with a nationwide audience, walked himself through the alleged series of events at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, within the timeframe in which they were supposed to have occurred, and concluded that the prosecution’s case, and the decisions by both the convicting jury and the majority of the appeal panel, simply made no sense. What was supposed to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did.

Australians willing to ignore the vicious anti-Pell polemics that have fouled their country’s public life for years also heard from two former workers at the cathedral, who stated categorically that what was alleged to have happened could not have happened how it did and when it did, because they were a few yards away from Cardinal Pell at the precise time he was alleged to have abused two choirboys.

Then there was Anthony Charles Smith, a veteran criminal attorney (and not a Catholic), who wrote in Annals Australasia that the Pell verdict and the denial of his appeal “curdles my stomach.” How, he asked, could a guilty verdict be rendered on “evidence….so weak and bordering on the preposterous?” The only plausible answer, he suggested, was that Pell’s “guilt” was assumed by many, thanks to “an avalanche of adverse publicity” ginned up by “a mob baying for Pell’s blood” and influencing “a media [that] should always be skeptical.”

Even more strikingly, the left-leaning Saturday Paper, no friend of Cardinal Pell or the Catholic Church, published an article in which Russell Marks – a one-time research assistant on an anti-Pell book – argued that the two judges on the appellate panel who voted to uphold the cardinal’s conviction “effectively allowed no possible defense for Pell: there was nothing his lawyers could have said or done, because the judges appeared to argue it was enough to simply believe the complainant on the basis of his performance under cross examination.”

The Australian criminal justice system has stumbled or failed at every stage of this case. The High Court of Australia can break that losing streak, free an innocent man, and restore the reputation of Australian justice in the world. Whatever the subsequent fallout from the rabid Pell-haters, friends of justice must hope that that is what happens when the High Court hears the cardinal’s case – Australia’s Dreyfus Case – next year.

Photo: CON CHRONIS/AFP/Getty Images