The media in America was full of reports last week of a mystery priest who came to the aid of a seriously injured young woman trapped at the scene of a critical car accident in eastern Missouri. Rescue workers described his arrival as a "miracle" and say that the girl, 19 year old university student Katie Lentz, who had multiple injuries had been fading fast until the priest came and prayed with her. Although more than 70 photographs were taken at the scene, none of them showed a priest, and the workers, and the girl's family were desperate to know who the priest was. The road had been blocked off in a mile in either direction and it did not seem possible that someone could have got to the accident scene unnoticed.
Raymond Reed, fire chief of New London, Missouri, said: "Whether it was an angel that was sent to us in the form of a priest or a priest that became our angel, I don't know Either way, he helped so much."
Katie's mother Carla, said emergency workers have told her there was no way her daughter should have lived inside such a mangled car. She said she believed the priest was an angel who had saved her daughter's life.
On Monday afternoon the mystery priest was identified as Father Patrick Dowling, from the Diocese of Jefferson City. Fr Patrick explained that he had been on his way to celebrate Mass when he realise there was an accident ahead. He parked his car and walked 150 yards or so to see whether he could do anything to help. He gave her absolution, anointed her and prayed with her for a short time. Then the rescue workers needed space, so he said: "I stepped to one side and said my rosary silently until the lady was taken from the car - then I left."
He said he admired the way the calm and professional way the team had worked to rescue Katie. "Many people were praying for her there" he said. "What I did was simply part of my duty as a priest."
A native of Ireland, Fr Dowling was ordained a priest for the Jefferson City diocese in 1982 and has served at several parishes in the diocese, as well as its two mission parishes in Peru.
Mrs Lentz writes on Facebook that Katie is recovering well in spite of suffering two broken femurs, a broken tibia and fibia, broken left wrist, nine broken ribs, a lacerated liver, ruptured spleen and bruised lung. She will need more surgery but the doctors are confident that she will make a full recovery.
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