Some thought he had been an angel, others a ghost, but a mysterious priest who seemed to just appear at a horrific accident scene on Highway 19 near Center, Missouri last week is real. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City issued a statement Monday identifying him as Fr. Patrick Dowling of Columbia.
Fr. Dowling has been the subject of speculation since arriving with anointing oils and praying with rescuers and 19-year-old Katie Lentz, of Quincy, Illinois, who was trapped in her mangled car. Then he had seemed to disappear.
The diocese says Fr. Dowling came across the scene while driving between morning Mass assignments.
Fr. Dowling wrote about the August 4 accident in the comments section of story about the crash on the National Catholic Register website. Here is what he wrote:
“I had Mass in Ewing MO as the regular priest was sick. As I was returning, I arrived at the scene. The authorities were redirecting traffic. I waited till it was possible to drive up closer. I parked behind a large vehicle about 150 yards from the scene. I asked the Sheriff’s permission and approached the scene of the accident. I absolved and anointed Katie, and, at her request, prayed that her leg would not hurt. Then I stepped aside to where some rescue personnel and the pilot were waiting, and prayed the rosary silently. I left when the helicopter was about to take off, and before I got to my car it was on its way to Quincy. I was amazed at the calmness of the two Highway patrol men. The sergeant was completely in control, amazingly calm. Everybody worked as harmoniously as a Swiss watch despite the critical nature of the scene. I gave my name to one of the authorities, perhaps to the sergeant of Highway Patrol, explaining that I was returning having celebrated Mass at Ewing. It was the sergeant who, at the Sheriff’s request, gave me Katie’s name as I was leaving, so I could visit her in hospital—I assumed she would be taken to Columbia. I think there may have been angels there too and, in this context, I congratulate the fire team from New London and Hannibal, the Sheriff/deputies of Ralls County, the Highway Patrol personnel, the helicopter team, the nurses and all who worked so professionally. God has blessed your work. I hope the credit goes where it is due.”