Lone Priest Administers Last Rites to Driver After Deadly Car Crash

Father John Killackey came to the aid of several stranded on the road after a tragic six-car pileup in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.

Father John Killackey walking down Interstate 81 southbound on July 8, 2020.
Father John Killackey walking down Interstate 81 southbound on July 8, 2020. (photo: Facebook/CoalSpeaking)

A picture of a lone priest walking along Highway 81 piqued the interest of thousands of Catholics this week.

Drenched with so much rain, the image appears as a Norman Rockwell work of art; the black of his cassock, heavy with water, could be streaks of oil paint. The priest, now identified as Father John Killackey, was stuck in a line of cars along the highway after six vehicles were involved in a crash on Interstate 81 South in East Hanover Township in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on July 8, 2020. 

Traffic apparently had come to a stop due to heavy rain. One car, not noticing the stand-still traffic, ran into the stream of cars and the driver was seriously injured. Father Killackey went to work, walking between the cars and semi-trucks, offering help to those suffering. Father Killackey was able to administer last rites to one person, just before the driver died.

We now have learned quite a bit about Father Killackey. A native of Wayne, N.J., he just celebrated his first-year anniversary of entering the priesthood. Serving as assistant priest at the Mater Dei Community in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he is a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter.

Parishioners have been moved by his devotion and witness throughout his first year and were not surprised to learn of his heroic act on the highway. Veronica Cecot, a parishioner at the Mater Dei Community, said, “We are so blessed to have him in our church community. What more of a blessing it was for the people in last night’s accident for him to offer prayers for them, especially for the one who died.” She added, “Pray for Father, as I’m sure he’s got to be shaken by what he’s witnessed. And pray for all priests.”

Thanks be to God for the selflessness of Father Killackey and all of our beloved priests who do so much for us, especially in our last hour of need.

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