The mystery priest who recently showed up at a crash site, anointed a victim and then seemingly vanished into thin air has, in fact, been identified. He made himself known by posting his identity in the comments section of a Catholic news site. The story unfolded on Aug. 4, after one Aaron Smith, 26, struck Katie Lentz, 19, in a terrible head-on car crash. Over the next couple of days, the story of an unknown faith leader – some even speculated a spirit – who disappeared went viral.
But now the holy man, who rescue workers have been attempting to find and thank for easing an otherwise tense situation, has been found. A press release provided to TheBlaze from the Diocese of Jefferson County confirmed that the Rev. Patrick Dowling, one of the priests who works with the diocese, is the individual everyone has been looking for.
Speculation that the mystery priest was an angel or a deceased Catholic saint were incorrect. Perhaps he was something better, albeit less appreciated; just a caring bystander and faith leader who took the time to help a young woman in crisis.
The statement, provided to TheBlaze by spokesperson Deacon Dan Joyce, who is the head of communications for the church diocese, reads (Joyce also confirmed these details with TheBlaze, noting that he has spoken with the priest about what unfolded):
The Diocese of Jefferson City has identified the priest who assisted at the site of the Sunday morning, August 4, 2013 auto accident near Center, Mo. He is Rev. Patrick Dowling, a priest of the Jefferson City Diocese. Fr. Dowling was travelling Hwy 19 between Mass assignments that morning in northern and central Missouri.
Fr. Dowling said that he 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. He and the Diocese wish to acknowledge and thank the first responders, medical team and law enforcement personnel for their efforts that morning in aid of the young woman injured in the accident.
Fr. Dowling, a native of Kilkenny, Ireland, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., in 1982. He has served at parishes in Moberly, Monroe City, Indian Creek, Milan, Unionville and Eldon, Mo., and in the diocese’s mission parishes in Marcona and Nasca, Peru.
He is currently serving in prison ministry and in parish ministry to Spanish-speaking Catholics.
Rev. Dowling chose to post an inconspicuous message in the comments section of an article on a Catholic news site, instead of seeking his own Father Pfleger moment, which was barely even noticed until this afternoon.
In the National Catholic Register, in a section where the search for the mystery priest was noted, Fr. Dowling wrote about the events that transpired that night. He wrote that he was on his way home from a Mass — only because he was covering for another priest who happened to be sick — he came upon the car crash. With authorities re-routing traffic he waited until it was possible for him to get 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,” Dowling said. “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.”
He left the scene just as the helicopter was about to leave. He did say that he gave his name to one of the emergency personnel, but somehow it was seemingly not passed on. The priest then went on to thank all of these workers, noting that they deserve accolades.
“God has blessed your work. I hope the credit goes where it is due,” he said of emergency workers at the scene.
Here’s the full public yet inconspicuous comment that he posted, below:
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.
While this is sure to disappoint some who had hoped for a supernatural intervention, or a miracle, we should try to put this in a more uplifting perspective. We live in a time of deep disconnection, one in which the personification of the painting “Night Hawks” is a day-to-day norm, even for priests. For those of you who are frequent readers, you know I am terribly critical of the church leadership all across America. But even I have to give credit where credit is due. If that’s not a miracle, then I don’t know what is.