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updated: 8/12/2013 9:30 PM

Missouri diocese identifies priest at accident scene

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Associated Press

CENTER, Mo. -- A priest who seemed to appear from nowhere to pray at a northeast Missouri accident scene earlier this month came across the crash while driving between morning Mass assignments, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City said Monday.

The official identification of the Rev. Patrick Dowling as the clergyman who showed up when he was needed most ends a mystery that gripped many witnesses and first responders since the Aug. 4 incident.

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Dowling, who is based in Columbia, "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 diocese said in a statement.

Witnesses had said they did not see the priest's car before he walked to the spot where emergency crews were cutting 19-year-old Katie Lentz, of Quincy, Ill., out of her badly mangled vehicle on Route 19 near the town of Center. Lentz's vehicle had been struck head-on by a suspected drunken driver.

Rescuers said a Catholic priest appeared just as the severely injured teen had asked them to pray with her.

Dowling had anointing oil with him. He prayed, gave Lentz the anointing of the sick as well as absolution and then left. Lentz was taken to a hospital for treatment of her injuries.

Calls to Dowling and the Jefferson City Diocese were not answered Monday evening.

But in a Monday interview with the Catholic News Agency that was posted on the National Catholic Register website, Dowling said he had performed the normal duties of a priest.

"I was probably part of the answer to their prayers: I came by, and anointed, and absolved," he said.

Two of the rescuers said they believed the priest told them they should remain calm and that they would succeed in freeing Lentz.

Dowling, however, said he did not make such statements.

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