September 20, 2013 By Cristina Corbin
The Rev. Patrick Dowling is flesh and blood, but to an Illinois woman whom the priest mysteriously ministered to as she lay trapped in the mangled wreckage of a car crash last month, he will always be an angel.
Today, on her twentieth birthday, Katie Lentz will meet the “miracle” priest, who left police baffled after appearing behind a police line at the Missouri crash scene to pray with her, then disappeared into the night. Lentz has endured a long recovery after the accident, in which her car was hit head-on by an alleged drunk driver, but she counts herself lucky that Dowling, who stepped forward after numerous reports about the “mystery priest,” was there in her time of need.
“It’s a miracle my daughter is alive,” her mother, Carla Churchill Lentz, told FoxNews.com in an emotional interview Friday. “She wasn’t expected to live.
“She is going to walk again,” she said.
“It’s a miracle my daughter is alive.”
– Carla Churchill Lentz, mother of crash victim
Katie, a Tulane University student from Quincy, Ill., was struck by a suspected drunk motorist at around 9 a.m. on Aug. 4 while driving on Route 19 near the town of Center, Mo., causing the 1989 green Mercedes she lovingly called the “Green Bean” to flip — trapping her inside its mangled wreckage.
The young woman suffered 15 broken bones and a lacerated liver and spleen. Her “vitals were failing quickly” by the time rescue workers arrived, her mother said. After two hours and 10 minutes trapped inside the car, she was extricated and air lifted to Blessing Hospital in Quincy, IL, her hometown.
The woman’s family credits two occurrences for her survival: Katie’s plea for first responders and witnesses to “pray out loud” as she lay with her head on the pavement and the arrival of a mystery priest, later identified as Rev. Patrick Dowling, who anointed her with oil and prayed at her side.
“We are so thankful for the simple message our Katie spoke from the very beginning — for everyone around her to pray out loud,” her mother said. “That message went around the world, and was propelled by the mystery priest we now know as Father Dowling, who just happened upon the accident and he offered his prayers.”
Dowling came across the crash in northeast Missouri while driving between morning Mass assignments.
Dowling, who is based in Columbia, Mo., “is pleased that he was able to help by performing his ministry and noted that he was just one of many who responded to assist the victim at the accident,” the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City said at the time.
The clergyman visited Katie in the intensive care unit one week after the crash, but the meeting was very short, given Katie’s fragile condition, according to her family.
“Today is the real reunion,” her mother said.
In the weeks that followed the crash, Katie received get-well cards from all over world — in countries as far away as South Africa and Australia. The family has established a website, called “roadsidemiracle.com,” to raise money for Katie’s medical expenses. The site also advertises a “5k Run/Walk,” to be held on Oct. 19, with proceeds benefiting the first responders who helped saved Katie’s life.
Katie’s mother is overwhelmed by what to say to Dowling when he arrives Friday afternoon at the family’s Illinois home to celebrate Katie’s birthday.
“The Bible tells us the steps of a righteous man are ordered by the Lord,” she said. “And I believe Father Dowling was at the right place at the right time.”
“There are so many reasons she should have perished,” Lentz said. “When you see the pictures from the crash, you say to yourself, ‘God is good.'”