Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Father Dowling Mystery: A Miracle Priest In Missouri

By Matt Palmer

It was a story tailor-made for Hollywood and designed by God.

Trapped in a horrific Aug. 4 car accident in Missouri, 19-year-old Katie Lentz's vital signs were fading. Lentz asked rescue crews to pray with her. With a two-mile perimeter around the accident, the scene was largely inaccessible. But, a mystery man - who appeared to be a Catholic priest - appeared at Lentz's darkest hour and anointed and absolved her.

Lentz survived and the priest disappeared, not showing up in any of the photos from the accident scene. It was almost like Lentz was Touched by an Angel or on a Highway to Heaven.

For more than a week, the national media and people across the country speculated about the priest's identity and wondered if he was not other-worldly. One witness said he was a "guardian angel at work."

It turns out this mystery priest was Father Dowling - but not the one played on TV by Tom Bosley years ago. Irish-born Father Patrick Dowling is a priest for the Diocese of Jefferson City who works in prison ministry and with the Spanish-speaking population of his diocese. He came upon the accident on the way back from celebrating 8:30 a.m. Mass.

He told ABC News today that, "Let's remember it was the All Mighty who loved that little girl so much and took such good care of her."

For some, the revelation of Father Dowling's identity lets the air out of the story. The miracle man who prayed for her was just a priest?! Why couldn't it have been an angel or some other form of divine intervention? For others, it's still an inspiring, feel-good story of a priest doing part of his job - praying for and with those in need.

In his ABC interview, even Father Dowling said that upon meeting Lentz in the hospital, he fully expected a let down. "She started to cry, I'm not sure why. She assured me she wasn't disappointed," he remembered.

He's not the first priest to be called a hero during the last year.

Monsignor Robert Weiss, pastor of St. Rose of Lima parish in Newtown, CT, became a pillar of support for the town and the country after an elementary school shooting in December 2012 left many children dead. He pastored to those in need and answered the deep questions that often come out of such violence.

Both Father Dowling and Monsignor Weiss will likely tell you they weren't heroic. They did what they were trained to do in seminary years ago. The life of a priest often goes unnoticed because praying, celebrating Mass, prison ministry, working with the Spanish-speaking population, ministering to the sick and guiding people spiritually doesn't grab headlines or make for incredible television.

This is their calling and they go where God puts them. Whether it's Newtown or in the middle of an accident in Missouri, Monsignor Weiss and Father Dowling are doing the work of their hero - Jesus - here on earth. In an age when cynicism appears to rule the day, that's truly a miracle.

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