Mysterious ‘Angel’ Priest From Missouri Car Crash Revealed

-By Warner Todd Huston

On August 4 a nearly fatal car crash occurred on a Missouri highway. The driver was feared near death and called for a priest to minister to her. Suddenly a Catholic priest appeared seemingly out of nowhere, attended to her, and then mysteriously disappeared causing many to wonder just who he was and how he just vanished like that. Well, now that mystery priest has been identified.

It may have been miraculous that Father Patrick Dowling from the Diocese of Jefferson County just happened to be right where he was needed most but it wasn’t quite the sort of “miracle” that some were assuming of his appearance.

In the aftermath of the car accident in which Katie Lentz was hit head-on by a drunk driver, rescue workers feared that they wouldn’t be able to get the woman out of her mangled car in time to save her life. A priest was needed to anoint her, they felt. If she passed in the wreck, she wanted to be blessed.

Just at the right time came Father Dowling. He ministered to the stricken woman and then, when he was done, he slipped away not to be seen again.

Many began spinning a myth over this timely arrival and mysterious departure, though. All sorts of stories began to be bandied about. One myth was that after blessing the woman, the mystery priest told rescue workers not to worry that their tools would work and they would be able to save the girl’s life (which they did, though she has very debilitating injuries nonetheless).

Naturally many wondered if this mystery priest was an angel sent just when he was needed.

The truth may be a bit less fantastic, but still no less timely and, perhaps, almost as amazing. Father Dowling just happened to be driving that stretch of road, just happened to decide to get out of his car to see what was going on, and just happened to walk up right when a priest was being called for.

These coincidences are themselves pretty fantastic when you think about it.

Compounding the myths, the priest felt that he may as well just be on his way when he was done with his duty and while the rescue workers were busy, slipped away and drove off. No use being in everyone’s way, he concluded.

In any case, Father Dowling has been shocked by all the attention his actions caused.

The good priest added a comment to one of the stories on the incident.

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.

He was so shocked by all the attention, though, he pleaded for the site to delete his comments. In due time those comments were deleted.

The Catholic News Agency did in interview with the Priest to put all the rumors to rest.

“You must remember, there were many people praying there, many, many people … and they were all praying obviously for healing and for her safety,” Dowling said.

“I was probably part of the answer to their prayers, I came by and Anointed and absolved, (but) I didn’t say another word … I did not say anything like the machinery would begin to work or they would succeed in getting her out of the car.”

Mystery at rest.
“The only end of writing is to enable the reader better to enjoy life, or better to endure it.”
–Samuel Johnson

Warner Todd Huston is a Chicago based freelance writer. He has been writing opinion editorials and social criticism since early 2001 and before that he wrote articles on U.S. history for several small American magazines. His political columns are featured on many websites such as Andrew Breitbart’s,, and, as well as,,,,, among many, many others. Mr. Huston is also endlessly amused that one of his articles formed the basis of an article in Germany’s Der Spiegel Magazine in 2008.

For a full bio, please CLICK HERE.

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