The Petteys recently made their first visit to Ireland.
There was Dominik’s funeral card pinned to the rafters.
For Ash Wednesday…
Dominik happily took this video of his friends “boxing” at school and posted it on social media.
For those who never experienced his sense of humor in person, his laugh says it all.
“It is requisite for the relaxation of the mind that we make use, from time to time, of playful deeds and jokes.” — St. Thomas Aquinas
The Petteys recently received this surprise request from a parish priest in Massachusetts:
“Hello, I am a friend of Father D. I received a number of prayer cards from him that were inspired by one of the priests who attended the funeral of Dominik. It has been very helpful to us as we restore our parish. Is it possible to get a large number of the cards?…Thank you, Father M.”
When the Petteys contacted Father D., the Massachusetts-based Jesuit priest who had given his brother priest the Holy Spirit prayer cards inspired at Dominik’s funeral, this is what he wrote:
“The prayer card…where do I begin – the prayer, the Holy Spirit – changes lives – I feel my own life changing and I find I can’t be without it- I stick it in my bag when I go for an overnight – or carry to my room in a book – etc. I have given the prayer card to retreatants – and it does wonders for them on their retreats. I have a Diocesan Priest who comes to see me… he is a holy man – my age – and is in a challenging parish – old, dilapidated – interiorly, and in the people as well – but – he is turning the parish around…he has taught himself to say Mass in Vietnamese and in Spanish – amazing. Well – I gave him one of the prayer cards – he came last week and said …‘that prayer – it does wonders.. and if you pray it seriously you have to put on your seat belt because the Spirit will take you and move you forward’… he asked for more…. I have very few left myself. If ever you have more to spare – I’d be so grateful. It is extraordinary what that one prayer does. I don’t have to tell you that…”
The first time I met Dominik Pettey was the Summer he turned 16.
He and my son Daniel were the exact same age- sharing the same birthday. What I remember most about Dom was his huge, warm smile. He was friendly, outgoing and exuded confidence. I met Dom another time also, the following Summer when the boys were celebrating their birthdays together at our local pool. Dom was fun-loving and charismatic, a real charmer to all who knew him. He had a quiet, reflective side as well and I don’t know if my son and their friends realized how spiritual Dom was. During the events leading up to and including his magnificent funeral, many stories emerged about Dom’s devotion to the Divine Mercy Chaplet and Sacred Heart of Jesus. Dom was introduced to the Divine Mercy Chaplet through his Polish heritage.
On October 31, 2014, Dominik, Daniel, Patrick and Sean were at Dom’s house celebrating Halloween when some friends from Visitation High School called and invited them to a party in Great Falls, Virginia. Unable to find a ride home after the party broke up, Daniel called his brother Drew, who was home for the night to attend a friend’s Halloween party, for a ride. On the way to pick up the boys in Virginia, Drew realized the car was low on gas but the only gas station nearby was closed. After the boys got in the car for the trip home, Drew’s fears were realized one half mile from their exit on the beltway – the car ran out of gas and he pulled over on the shoulder. Drew felt tremendous embarrassment and apologized to the boys in the car. He remembers they were all very understanding but it was Dom’s words that resonated with Drew. Dominik’s last words on earth were to the effect: “Dude, don’t worry about it, it’s all good”. Dominik was trying to make someone else feel better as his last earthly act. But that was Dom, always kind, inclusive and trying to make everyone around him feel a little bit better. Shortly after, the disabled car was hit from behind by an approaching vehicle.
I remember the night of the accident when I got the call that Drew and Daniel were taken to the hospital. The interminable wait to find out the fate of the other boys was torture. When we finally found out that Dom had died, my husband and I were devastated. There was and still is tremendous guilt that it was our car that ran out of gas and yet our two sons survived the accident. I remember dreading the moment when I would face Dom’s parents whom we had never met. I called our pastor, Father Meyers, and asked him to accompany us to the Pettey’s home the Sunday following the accident.
The Pettey Family graciously welcomed us and several others into their home and could not have been kinder to us. Patrick had even called Rick the day before to check on Drew who was still hospitalized at that point. I was so riddled with survivor’s guilt that I was nauseated and trembling when I met the Petteys. I was practically on my knees begging for forgiveness when Magda pulled me aside into her living room and told me about Dominik. She said that Dominik had been in such a good place at the time of the accident that she felt his soul was ready to meet his Lord. Dom had experienced dark days around the time of his appendectomy and the months following. The Spring and Summer of 2014 had been a re-birth for Dominik with the help of family, teachers at Gonzaga and his faith. He was eagerly looking forward to his senior year, Gonzaga hockey and applying to college. Magda and Pat both felt that he was happy and on track for the next chapter of his life.
I will never understand why Dom was taken from those who loved him. It was God’s plan and I cannot imagine how I would have handled losing a child. I have no doubt that it was the strong faith of Pat and Magda that helped them accept God’s will even at such a heartbreaking cost. Dom’s death devastated his friends and the Gonzaga community. His funeral, in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, the largest church in North America was standing room only. Anyone present can attest to the feeling that this was no ordinary requiem Mass. I will never forget the eulogy that was delivered by his best friend who described Dom as a regular kid who had such a profound impact on those all around him. There was a mystical quality to the funeral and one of the 24 priests who con-celebrated the Mass was inspired to write a prayer to the Holy Spirit after the funeral.
There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about Dominik and his parents. Dom’s friends are in touch with Magda and Pat on a regular basis and this is good for everyone. Drew and Daniel and some of their friends look forward to dinner at the Pettey’s and talking about and remembering Dom. They like to go in his bedroom and be among his things.
I envision that Daniel is living the life Dom would have lived if he were still with us. I imagine it must be difficult to hear what Dom’s friends are doing in their own lives but the Petteys give no hint of sadness or regret. I don’t know if they realize how much their visits have helped the boys heal from this tragedy. I pray for them every day and I have no doubt their reward in heaven will be great, when they are reunited with their beloved son Dominik.
In November 2018, the Petteys received word that the Gonzaga Senior class had gathered together in the Franklin/K Street parking lot after school on All Saints Day, Nov. 1.
Apparently, Dom Day continues….
Each year in Boston, friends of Dominik have gathered together November 1 in his memory for a prayer service or Mass.
They always initiate this gathering on their own and then graciously send word of the event the next day to the Petteys. Alums of both Gonzaga and Georgetown Prep, many of Dom’s friends–old and new–are in town attending schools like Boston College, Northeastern and Harvard.
“This year we had a great turn out from Boston College grads, and even had two Northeastern Gonzaga grads come over for the prayer service. Always a great way to get back in touch with our Gonzaga roots and remember our friend and teammate.” –Chris M., November 2018
During his physical and interior struggles and absence from school Junior year, Dominik had many people who were praying for him.
He was anointed and blessed with the Sacrament of the Sick. The Chaplet of Divine Mercy was the regular prayer of his worried parents, often on their knees.
His grandparents, too, shared in his suffering by offering their own prayers and had Masses said for his healing and well-being. Extended family and close friends were also enlisted to pray for his recovery.
Although there were times when he seemed incapable of praying for himself, Dominik knew how many people were with him in prayer.
Finally in the weeks before the Fall 2014 semester, Dominik was much better. One morning, he woke up, cleaned out his room and rearranged his furniture in preparation for Senior year. He stacked up all the holy cards he had been given through the years and put them together in a pack with a rubber band around them in his bedstand drawer.
He was ready.
“And the Lord let me know that everything can be obtained by means of this prayer (1128)…. Through the Chaplet you will obtain everything, if what you ask for is compatible with My will” (1731). –Diary of St. Faustina
By early winter at the beginning of second semester Junior Year, Dominik had missed a lot of school.
In addition to his personal absences, the Washington area had several winter storms. Classes were cancelled, but the students were still expected to keep up with their reading and homework. Gonzaga lost even more days that cold winter when frozen pipes burst and flooded the school.
Dominik was scheduled to go on Kairos (Greek for “God’s Time”), a retreat experience away from campus from Tuesday through Friday at the end of February. Although he was worried about getting even further behind in his classwork, he decided to go anyway.
Dom was moved deeply by those days.
During the months of Spring 2014 when he was absent from school and undergoing his greatest struggles, he pulled out the materials he received during that Kairos week and re-read them all.
He had hoped to be a Kairos leader during his Senior year.
“Kairos was a special time for us, Dom. We are brothers through Gonzaga, brothers through Kairos, and one day I hope we can be brothers in heaven. Dom-o, you will be missed, and I’ll live the fourth for us both.” –Gonzaga classmate
During the time when Dominik was absent from Gonzaga, his doctor suggested that he get outside into the sunshine as much as possible and also find a job to help structure his days.
His parents approached a local pizza restaurant and explained Dominik’s situation. Patrick, the managing partner, had nephews who went to Dominik’s school, and he needed a new worker. He hired Dom on the spot.
Although he was still struggling, Dominik responded well to his work schedule at Ledo’s. Patrick was generous and understanding, providing encouragement as well as high expectations of being on time and performing a job well done.
Dom was proud of his employee pizza discount, and took full advantage of it! He worked at Ledo’s until the beginning of his Senior year, and looked up to Patrick as a mentor.
The day after Dom passed away, Patrick quietly arrived at the Pettey’s home with a stack of pizzas to feed the family and their friends. At a later date, he shared with them a postcard which was in his mailbox when he arrived home from Dominik’s funeral.
One of the hockey players was #11.
Patrick still keeps the postcard in his briefcase.
“Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption in a way, sometimes even despair and anger against God because we cannot make it happen; we cannot get better. But it can also make a person more mature, helping him to discern his life…. We can respond in two ways to this situation, this tragedy that we are dealing with – either by turning toward God in trust, or by turning away from him in distrust….But Dom didn’t turn away. Dom focused on God in his suffering. In his short but full life he confronted his own personal sufferings. I know. I was his parish priest.” –Fr. Mark Knestout, Funeral Mass Homily