On Sunday, August 4, 2013, a drive through rural Missouri turned tragic for 19-year old Katie Lentz. A drunk driver veered into her lane, colliding with her vehicle head-on. When first responders arrived at the scene, they found Lentz alive but in critical condition, trapped within the wreckage.
Emergency crews tried for an hour to free Lentz from her totaled Mercedes, but their tools weren’t strong enough. The car’s build quality that permitted her survival now caged her in like a prison. Lentz’s condition deteriorated. The rescue crew was out of options.
“I don’t know how we’re going to get her out,” remarked fire chief Raymond Reed in a moment of desperation. Offering his support, sheriff’s deputy Richard Adair responded, “I promised her mother and her that we’d get her out.”
Trapped and helpless inside her mangled car, Lentz asked one request of her rescuers, to pray with her out loud. And so they did. Suddenly, despite a 2-mile road block, a stranger appeared at their sides.
The mystery man was dressed as a Catholic priest, and carried a small bottle at his side. He requested permission to anoint her with oil. Fire chief Reed agreed, and as the priest carried out his prayer, a sense of peace came over Lentz.
“Remain calm,” assured the priest. “Your tools will now work. You will get her out of that vehicle.”
It was at that moment when a neighboring fire department arrived on scene with a stronger set of tools, capable of finally penetrating the car’s thick frame. Finally, Lentz had been freed. The rescuers turned to thank the priest, but he was gone.
Lentz began her road to recovery from the accident which left her with broken legs and ribs. But the question remained, who was the unnamed priest that arrived to aid her so dutifully, only to vanish moments later without a trace? The man’s identity proved elusive, as he remained markedly absent from the 70 photos taken at the scene. But in the days following, Reverend Patrick Dowling would emerge as the man behind the miraculous act.
The nature of the events on that uncertain day raise a number of questions. Can Lentz’s survival be attributed to divine intervention, or were there other forces at play? Remarkably, she demonstrated a tremendous level of faith, even when her situation turned dire. Her story suggests that a devout faith can act as a key ingredient in weathering any situation, no matter how bleak it looks on the horizon.