All of my novenas are novenas of thanksgiving,” Doris Drago declared proudly. She should be proud; this year, Doris will attend her 50th Annual Healing and Hope Novena at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows in Belleville, Illinois. After 50 years, Doris has been continually blessed and given reason
In 1956, Doris, who was pregnant with her first and only child, traveled from her home in California to New Athens, Illinois, to visit her parents. Finding comfort and happiness with her family, the “visit” turned into a permanent move, and Doris today finds herself living in the same house that her family has occupied since 1927.
On January 11, 1957, not long after Doris had moved back to Illinois, she gave birth to a perfect baby girl. After hearing of the annual novenas, she decided to attend the nine nights of prayer, July 28th to August 5, to give thanks for her healthy new baby. The novena touched her deeply, and she made a choice to continue thanking the Lord in this way. “I decided I have to give thanks to Our Lord and the Blessed Mother,” Doris explained. “There was just something so very special about the way they presented the novena, that I was just drawn to Our Lady of the Snows.”
Several years later, in November of 1961, Doris Drago’s life took a life-altering turn. She was involved in a severe car accident in which she broke her back. Medical experts didn’t expect her to live – but she proved to be strong and full of faith. “I knew she (Mary) was standing beside me as I lay on the ground,” Doris explained, “I persevered to make the novena.”
Doris acknowledged that the novena, following the accident, in 1962 has had the most meaning to her. At this novena, she celebrated life. The near-death experience had opened her eyes to the blessings surrounding her, and she found the healing she needed to recover from her physical ailments as well as the hope she needed to continue walking in God’s footsteps. She gave thanks for the many blessings that were bestowed upon her. Doris explained the concept that has kept her strong of faith. “You have to be thankful for everything that you have – even the smallest things – you have to be thankful.”
As a full-time nurse and volunteer, Doris dedicates herself to helping others and to giving thanks for her blessings. She walks hand-in-hand with the Oblates in this sense. Striving to give at least 300 volunteer hours each year to the Missionary Oblates, Doris is involved in many events at the Shrine. For several years, she has worked at Minds Eye twice a week answering telephone calls. Minds Eye is a Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows ministry that provides closed-circuit broadcast service for the blind and print-impaired in the greater St. Louis area. “I have been volunteering since the Shrine needed volunteers,” Doris said, “You really want to do the best you can for them.”
Over the 50 years that Doris Drago has attended the Annual Healing and Hope Novena, she has prayed among a vast number of pilgrims. “I’ve met a lot of people who have been inspired by the novena,” Mrs. Drago recounted, “I get something out of every novena.” This year, to celebrate her 50th pilgrimage, Doris will be accompanied by her entire family and numerous friends.
All are welcome to join Doris during
her 50th pilgrimage to the Shrine of
Our Lady of the Snows for nine nights of intense prayer and devotion to Our Lady of the Snows beginning on July 28th. The prayers for the novena focus on healing and hope, with topics spanning from physical to spiritual and from social to familial. The novena concludes on the Feast Day of Our Lady of the Snows, August 5th, a day of thanksgiving for all of the blessings that the Lord has given.
Looking back on the challenges that she faced throughout her life, Doris is confident that any burdens that may arise can be carried without problems if all trust is placed in God’s hands. “Anything He gives you is always a blessing in disguise.”