Mystery priest revealed: He disappeared after car accident

Mystery priest revealed: Rev. Patrick Dowling acknowledged that he prayed for a woman at the scene of an Aug. 4 car accident, then left. None of the first responders knew who the mystery priest was, until today.

A priest who seemed to appear from nowhere to pray – and then quickly disappeared – at a northeast Missouri accident scene earlier this month was identified.

The Rev. Patrick Dowling came across the crash while driving between morning Mass assignments, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City said.

The official identification of the clergyman who showed up when he was needed most ends a mystery that gripped many witnesses and first responders since the Aug. 4 incident.

Dowling, who is based in Columbia, "is pleased that he was able to help by performing his ministry and noted that he was just one of many who responded to assist the victim at the accident," the diocese said Monday in a statement (click for PDF copy).

Witnesses had said they did not see the priest's car before he walked to the spot where emergency crews were cutting 19-year-old Katie Lentz, of Quincy, Ill., out of her badly mangled vehicle on Route 19 near the town of Center. Lentz's vehicle had been struck head-on by a suspected drunken driver.

Rescuers said a Catholic priest appeared just as the severely injured teen had asked them to pray with her.

Dowling had anointing oil with him. He prayed, gave Lentz the anointing of the sick as well as absolution and then left. Lentz was taken to a hospital for treatment of her injuries.

Calls to Dowling and the Jefferson City Diocese were not answered.

But in an interview Monday with the Catholic News Agency that was posted on the National Catholic Register website, Dowling said he had performed the normal duties of a priest.

“You must remember: There were many people praying there, many, many people … and they were all praying, obviously, for healing and for her safety,” he said. “I was probably part of the answer to their prayers: I came by, and anointed, and absolved,” he said.

“He came up and approached the patient and offered a prayer,” Raymond Reed, the New London, Mo., fire chief explained to KHQA-TV about the Aug. 4 incident. “A sense of calmness came over her, and it did us as well. I can’t be for certain how it was said, but myself and another firefighter, we very plainly heard that we should remain calm, that our tools would now work and that we would get her out of that vehicle.”___

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.


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