Diocese reveals identity of 'Miracle Priest'

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The Diocese of Jefferson City identified the priest who assisted at the site of an Aug. 4 crash that injured a Quincy woman.

Rev. Patrick Dowling, a priest in the Jefferson City Diocese, was travelling Highway 19 between mass assignments that morning in northern and central Missouri, according to a diocese statement released Monday.

Dowling stopped and prayed with 19-year-old crash victim Katie Lentz and first responders.

Dowling said that he's pleased that he was able to help by performing his ministry and said that he was one of many who responded to help the victim.

"You must remember, there were many people praying there, many, many people â?¦ and they were all praying obviously for healing and for her safety," Dowling told Carl Bunderson with Catholic News Agency. "I was probably part of the answer to their prayers, I came by and Anointed and absolved, (but) I didn't say another word â?¦ I did not say anything like the machinery would begin to work or they would succeed in getting her out of the car."

KHQA's Rajah Maples paid Rev. Patrick Dowling a visit Monday night to get his story.

Father Dowling says he was returning to mid-Missouri following a Mass in Ewing, Missouri because the regular priest was sick on the morning of Sunday, August 4. That's when he approached the accident scene on Missouri 19. He said he was already inside the blockade before authorities started blocking traffic. He waited until it was possible to drive up closer. He ended up parking behind a large vehicle about 150 yards from the scene, walked up to a member of the Ralls County Sheriff's Department and asked if he could approach the scene. Father Dowling says he never plans to drive away from an emergency, road block or no road block.

"If I were in an accident, and I heard that a priest drove by, I would get him for that!" Father Dowling said. "That he would pass by the scene of an accident and leave me at death's door without stopping to help."

Rescue crews took about 80 photos of the crash scene as crews were trying to rescue 19-year-old Katie Lentz. Father Dowling, also known as the mysterious priest, appeared in none of them. He said he doesn't have an explanation for that.

The priest does not want credit for the rescue. He said a higher power deserves that credit along with the hard work and diligence of the rescue workers on the scene that morning. He described them as working harmoniously together like a Swiss watch.

New London Volunteer Fire Chief says he has mixed emotions about Father Dowling stepping forward.

"My initial reaction was two-fold," Reed said. "One side of me was ecstatic that I'm now going to be able to physically meet this individual. The other side of me -- a lot of people touched by this story were grasping onto the thought that this mysterious priest was placed there by God in a form that they had their interpretation of. He was my angel either way, and I'm gonna still stick to that."

The Diocese of Jefferson City's communications director said that when Dowling read news reports about the family and rescue crews wishing to know who the priest was, he wanted them to know.

Watch KHQA's entire raw interview with Father Dowling by clicking here.

Dowling is a native of Kilkenny, Ireland. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., in 1982.

He 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 working in prison ministry and in parish ministry to Spanish-speaking Catholics.

You may remember the Missouri Highway Patrol said Aaron Smith, 26, crossed the center line and struck Lentz head-on. It took rescue workers over an hour to free Lentz from the car. She remains at Blessing Hospital.

Charges against Smith are pending.