News of a mystery priest who supposedly showed up to offer prayers for a young woman trapped inside of a vehicle on Sunday, has gone viral. The individual, who calmed both the 19-year-old and the emergency responders who were feverishly attempting to help her, subsequently vanished. Now, witnesses are speaking out about his appearance, with one claiming he looks like deceased Hollywood actor Walter Matthau.
TheBlaze contacted numerous Catholic churches in the Center, Mo. area to learn more about the incident. One, Rev. Louis Dorn of nearby St. Joseph’s Church, is as perplexed as everyone else.
Dorn said that there are three churches in the area (St. Joseph, St. Clement and St. Williams), but that none of the priests nearby match the description of the mystery man that first responders and other witnesses gave.
“What I heard on the news was he was dark-complected, about 5’7″, just under 200 pounds, with black rimmed glasses,” Dorn said, adding that firefighters and others reported he was “speaking with an accent of some kind.”
Indeed, KHQA-TV reported that one woman who helped at the scene, Wanda Burr-White, described the priest this way, adding that he had dark hair and that she was unsure of his nationality. Her husband, who also saw the man, added that he had black-rimmed glasses and he resembled Matthau, best known for his roles in “The Odd Couple” and “Grumpy Old Men.”
As for whether a priest (or an individual posing as one) is responsible for the rescue or whether it was an “angel” as some have claimed, Dorn is uncertain, but did point out some strange elements.
“If it was a real priest, there’s several things that make you really wonder,” he said. “If the road was blocked a quarter mile in either direction, that would have been a long walk. How do he get that far away without anyone seeing him? It’s a fairly flat area.”
Below, see a composite that was sent to KHQA-TV — one that is basted on witness descriptions:
Father Bill Peckman of the St. Clement parish added that all of the local priests would have been in mass at 9 a.m. and that the person was likely a faith leader who was on vacation. As for whether the appearance was an angel or an actual priest, he said “regardless God intervened.” He added that this is a “wonderful story” and a nice break from some of the other things going on in the world right now.
Deacon Dan Joyce, head of communications for the Catholic Diocese of Jefferson County, the presiding church body in the area, told TheBlaze no priests have yet come forward to say they were the one who helped crash victim Katie Lentz.
“We have international priests that are assigned from our diocese that are from places like Nigeria, the Philippines and India — and a few of them are within a 150 mile radius,” Joyce said. “We’ve looked at the area and the churches to see where that path is in relationship to some of the parishes and we really don’t come up with a priest from our dioceses who would be traveling on a Sunday morning on that particular path.”
That doesn’t mean that there’s something supernatural at play — it’s entirely possible there was another priest who just happened to be passing through. The diocese remains unsure of what really happened.
“Our feeling is clearly something occurred. There were many witnesses that were involved,” Joyce said. “There was an anointing involved.”
Catholic leaders aren’t spending too much time on the case. While they there open to the idea that this was a potential miracle, as their faith compels them to remain open to the prospect, Joyce isn’t going out of his way to find answers.
“We’re not going to be conducting any sort of investigation, certainly out of respect to our priests who might have been involved — in respect for their privacy if they don’t want to come forward,” he said.
Aaron Smith, 26, struck Lentz in a head-on car crash on Sunday morning. After 60 minutes of emergency responders trying to get Lentz out of the vehicle (she was pinned between the steering wheel and the seat), rescue crews, at the young woman’s request, prayed out loud for her. As they did, the mystery priest appeared. According to accounts, he came out of nowhere and brought intense calm upon the situation.
“He came up and approached the patient and offered a prayer,” New London Fire Chief Raymond Reed told KHQA-TV. “It was a Catholic priest who had anointing oil with him. A sense of calmness came over her, and it did us as well.”
After another fire department showed up, the rescue proceeded easily and the tools worked, as promised. But when nearly a dozen firefighters turned around to thank the priest, he was gone; the road was empty. Since, no one has seen or heard from the man and his identity remains a mystery.
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