Mystery Priest in Missouri Rescue Revealed

Father Patrick Dowling says he was the priest on the scene, but he can't explain some mysterious events reported by rescuers.

Father Patrick Dowling
Father Patrick Dowling (photo: CNA)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The mysterious priest who gave anointing to a Missouri woman trapped in her wrecked car has been identified as Father Patrick Dowling of the Diocese of Jefferson City.

“I thank God and the amazingly competent rescue workers,” Father Dowling stated in a comment on Catholic News Agency’s original article on the Aug. 4 incident. (The priest also recounted his story in a comment posted at for the National Catholic Register.)

“I thank them for making me welcome in such a highly charged situation and allowing me to minister as a priest,” he said.

Katie Lentz was trapped in her older-model Mercedes after being struck by another vehicle that passed into her lane. That car's driver has been charged with DWI.

Rescue workers spent an hour trying to get Lentz out of her car, but the solid materials of its construction were dulling the fire department's emergency equipment.

Father Dowling was driving by Center, Mo., while on his way back from offering Mass in Ewing. A native of Ireland, Father Dowling was ordained a priest for the Jefferson City Diocese in 1982. He currently serves in prison ministry, and also ministers to the Spanish-speaking population of the Diocese of Jefferson City.

Though the highway was blocked off, Father Dowling revealed he “did not leave with the other cars.” After parking as close as he could to the scene of the accident, he said he walked the remaining 150 yards.

“I asked the sheriff if a priest might be needed,” he said.

“When the young lady asked that I pray her leg stop hurting, I did so. She asked me to pray aloud, and I did briefly,” he said.

Father Dowling added, “The rescue workers needed space and would not have appreciated distraction. I stepped to one side and said my Rosary silently until the lady was taken from the car.”

He observed that the rescue workers “worked with the harmony of a Swiss watch.”

“The Highway Patrol sergeant was amazingly calm and completely in control,” he said.

Once Lentz was removed from her vehicle, Father Dowling stated, “I then shook hands with the sheriff and thanked him as I left. I have to admire the calmness of everybody involved.”

Mysterious Questions Remain

CNA spoke with Father Dowling Aug. 12, and he said that he gave Lentz the anointing of the sick as well as absolution.

He affirmed that it was in the normal duties of a priest, “except that there was something extraordinary it sounds like, in the sequence of events that coincided in time with the anointing.”

“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.

But Father Dowling said he could not explain other mysterious events that coincided with his ministering at the accident scene.

“I didn't say another word,” he said. “I did not say anything like the machinery would begin to work or they would succeed in getting her out of the car.”

The priest said, “That did not come from my lips, though two people heard it.”