Well, just the other day the priest came forward:
The Diocese of Jefferson City has identified the priest as Father Patrick Dowling, a native of Kilkenny, Ireland, who currently is serving in prison ministry and in parish ministry to Spanish-speaking Catholics in the diocese.You can read more in the St. Louis Review article here.
Fr. Dowling (image via Catholic News Agency)
A statement from the diocese noted that Fr. Dowling was traveling Aug. 4 on Hwy 19 between Mass assignments in northern and central Missouri. He stopped at the accident scene near Center, Mo., where 19-year-old Katie Lentz of Quincy, Ill., was trapped in her car with serious injuries. The Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that Aaron Smith, 26, of New London, Mo., had crossed the center line and struck Lentz head-on.
I've driven Highway 19 before. It's a simple two-lane highway with cornfields alongside it for miles after miles. Some of the spots along there feel very remote. If something happens, like this accident, it could be awhile before you get help. Which makes this story so miraculous in the first place, even if the priest was not an angel, like people were originally speculating. Just the mere timing of it all was miraculous enough to be classified as a miracle, in my humble opinion.
However, that's not the thing that struck me about all this. Here's what did:
For years, really an eternity it seems for us Catholics, we have heard nothing but negative stories about the Catholic Church in general and priests in particular - be it that the Church won't allow priests to marry, or the abuse scandals, there is no shortage of negative press from the media.
But now we have this wonderful story about a priest who simply did what he was supposed to do in the course of his priestly duties. No doubt this is divinely inspired (and much needed) PR for the Catholic Church. Couple this with the warm reception of Pope Francis and we have what seems like what could be a new springtime in the Church.
So, I pose the following questions:
For my fellow Catholics, do you think this story will change the general perception of priests and the Church? And for my non-Catholic friends, has this story alone changed your perception of Catholic priests, and/or Catholicism in general?
Check out the poll on the sidebar.