Tragic Death Makes an Apostle of Mercy

Two years ago, 17-year-old high school senior and star hockey player Dominik Pettey was killed instantly when a car crashed into his disabled vehicle on the side of a highway. His parents, Patrick and Magdalena of Potomac, Maryland, placing all of their trust in Jesus, said, "We want everyone to know that, however tragic, his sudden death was the will of God. We earnestly believe that God would not have taken him from this earth at the pinnacle of his life unless He had a mission for him."

They are certain what that mission is: Spread the message of Divine Mercy.

Who is this young man who has become such an apostle of Divine Mercy and made such an impact on thousands of lives, not only while living, but also since his death?

Dominik earned good grades and treasured hanging out with his "band of buddies." He lived life to the fullest. December of his junior year his appendix burst in the middle of the night requiring an emergency appendectomy. While waiting for surgery, he asked for a priest to come and hear his Confession.

Complications from the surgery required a weeklong stay in the hospital, immense physical suffering, and the loss of 17 pounds. He had to temporarily leave the hockey team, and later in the school year, he suffered a bout with depression, requiring him to finish his semester at home. Throughout his depression, his parents would pray to St. Faustina and say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy with him.

As a young child, his family took a trip to Poland, going to visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy and St. Faustina's tomb just outside Krakow. He hugged and played with the sisters and ran up to the tomb of St. Faustina, laid out on it, and kissed it.

When he was in grade school, his pastor made him an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on a piece of wood. Dominik always kept this on him. The coating was worn off it where he kissed it before going to school, hockey games, or to sleep. When he was in his time of deep suffering, it was the Merciful Jesus who held him and his family through it all, his parents say.

By the fall of his senior year, he was in school getting the best report card he had ever gotten. Hockey season was beginning in a week, and he was surrounded by loving friends and family.

"He was the happiest he had ever been in his life," his mother says.

Then the accident happened.

The family knew his funeral Mass would draw huge attendance - teenagers, teachers, coaches, family, and friends. They knew the crowd would be beyond the capacity of their local parish church.

So permission was granted to move his funeral to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., the largest Catholic church in North America. The Basilica, which seats 3,500, was standing-room only for Dominik's requiem Mass, which was concelebrated by more than 20 priests.

In the eulogy, his parents said, "On our son's behalf, spread the message of Divine Mercy and practice acts of mercy and kindness towards one another. Share with the world that we have an all merciful God and that no sin is too great that He cannot forgive it."

One priest in attendance, Msgr. John B. Brady, said that in his 60 years of being a Catholic priest, having attended many liturgies in the Basilica and churches throughout the world, Dominik's Mass of Christian Burial was the most awe-inspiring liturgy of his life.

He said, "It was like being in Heaven. The Holy Spirit was fully in charge of that funeral liturgy."

Brother Leonard Konopka, MIC, a staff member of the Marian's House of Studies in Washington, D.C., attended. "I never witnessed anything comparable in all the years we've had services there," he said.

The Mass was preceded by the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet, and the image of Divine Mercy was placed in front of the altar and on the memorial cards so as to spread the message of Divine Mercy to all in attendance.

The main celebrant and homilist, Dominik's pastor, Fr. Mark Knestout, preached on the redemptive value of suffering and the message of Divine Mercy.

It is the prayer of Dominik's parents that many come to know the mercy of God through Dominik's story. They concluded their eulogy with this:

"It doesn't stop here. Let the love you feel for celebrating Dominik's life continue to inspire you to seek, love, and trust in God to fill that place in your heart like Dominik did. Let us all fight for Heaven!"

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Let St. Teresa of Avila, a Doctor of the Church, teach you the power of prayer.

"My mission - to make God loved - will begin after my death," she said. "I will spend my heaven doing good on earth. I will let fall a shower of roses."

We are commissioned, every single Catholic, every last Christian, to go out and announce the Good News of the Gospel to the world.