A follow-up to last Thursday’s palate cleanser about the mysterious appearance and disappearance of a priest at a crash involving a young woman in Missouri. Angel? Saint? Or man of the cloth passing by and pausing to minister compassionately to a woman in need?
Let’s call it a a “Father Dowling mystery”:
The Diocese of Jefferson City has identified the priest who assisted at the site of the Sunday morning, August 4, 2013 auto accident near Center, Mo. He is Rev. Patrick Dowling, a priest of the Jefferson City Diocese. Fr. Dowling was travelling Hwy 19 between Mass assignments that morning in northern and central Missouri.
Fr. Dowling said that he is pleased that he was able to help by performing his ministry and noted that that he was just one of many who responded to assist the victim at the accident. He and the Diocese wish to acknowledge and thank the first responders, medical team and law enforcement personnel for their efforts that morning in aid of the young woman injured in the accident.
Fr. Dowling, a native of Kilkenny, Ireland, was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Jefferson City, Mo., in 1982. He has served at parishes in Moberly, Monroe City, Indian Creek, Milan, Unionville and Eldon, Mo., and in the diocese’s mission parishes in Marcona and Nasca, Peru.
That’s from the Blaze, which flags this comment left on a Catholic news website apparently by Dowling himself on Friday:
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.
That’s not the only comment he left. Yesterday morning, in one marked “URGENT” in all caps, he begged for that earlier comment to be removed, saying, “It would be greatly appreciated both by myself and probably the family of the victim.” Maybe he underestimated the crush of publicity that would come once his name was out; either way, the comment wasn’t removed and today the diocese is confirming that it was him. It’s interesting to read through his account, though, and see what does and doesn’t match up with descriptions of him from the scene. Some witnesses described him as having silver hair and an accent, which matches his photo and the fact that he’s a native of Ireland. Other witnesses described him as having dark hair, a dark complexion, and bearing a resemblance to Walter Matthau, none of which is accurate. (The artist’s sketch based on descriptions from the scene doesn’t look much like him either.) No surprises there, though: When your mind is consumed with saving someone’s life after an accident, the details of extraneous stuff will blur. The key detail about the road being blocked off for a quarter-mile — or even two miles, according to one account — also appears to have been wrong. Per Dowling himself, he was less than 500 feet away. He was driving by, saw an accident, generously offered to assist, walked up while everyone was distracted, then walked away while everyone was distracted by the helicopter lifting off. Being only 150 yards away from his car, it’s no wonder he was back on the road before anyone noticed he had gone.
I’ll leave you with this, though, since it’s from Dowling’s own account:
CNA spoke with Fr. Dowling Aug. 12, and he explained that he gave Lentz 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.”…
“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.”
“That did not come from my lips, though two people heard it.”