The viral tale of the mystery priest — who reportedly showed up to offer prayers for a young woman trapped inside of a vehicle after a head-on collision and then vanished — has taken a yet another twist.
The identity of the individual—observed calming both the 19-year-old victim and the emergency responders who were feverishly attempting to help her in Center, Mo.—is the big topic now.
There was a composite sketch of the man:
...as well as one witness who claimed he looked like deceased Hollywood actor Walter Matthau:
Now online prognosticators have hypothesized that the priest could have been the Catholic Saint Padre Pio, who died in Italy 45 years ago and has a very large global following, with celebrities from actress Sophia Loren to vocalist Andrea Bocelli "devoted to the humble man from San Giovanni Rotondo," the Daily Mail notes.
Pio was said to have suffered the "stigmata" - or the wounds of Jesus Christ on the cross - throughout his adult life, possessed powers of conversion, could heal the sick, and also had the gift of "bilocation" (the ability to be in two places at once), the Daily Mail adds.
Pio's reported "stigmata" wounds continued bleeding—as much as a cup a day—until he died, the Daily Mail reports, with "the liquid exuding a sweet smell akin to violets."
Ralls County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Adair was the first rescue worker at the accident scene Sunday. After an hour had passed trying to get Lentz out of the vehicle (she was pinned between the steering wheel and the seat), the situation became dire, he told KHQA.
"The fire chief, Raymond Reed, had stepped back and came up to me and said he was concerned cause he was out of options," Adair said. "His tools weren't working and by that time, it as almost an hour and said 'I don't know how we're going to get her out.' I said, 'Raymond, I promised her mother and her that we'd get her out. We have to get her out,' and he said 'I know' and went back."
Rescue crews, at the young woman’s request, prayed out loud for her. Then the mystery priest showed up and asked to anoint Lentz with oil.
"My first thought was that it would possibly send the wrong message to Katie that maybe we had called a priest and thought she wasn't going to make it," Adair said. "So I went back and talked to the priest and told him we were worried she would think we'd given up hope. He said, 'I just want to anoint her,' and so we just let him come up to the scene."
Witnesses say he anointed Lentz and her rescuers with oil, prayed with them, asking them to remain calm and saying that the crew's equipment would work, KHQA said.
The Hannibal Fire Department pulled up shortly after with fresh equipment and the rescue proceeded easily and the tools worked, as the priest 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.
Reed said the department ended up taking 80 photos of the scene, but the priest doesn't appear in any of them.
"I've done this a long time, and it's probably the most horrific accident I've ever seen that a human survived," Adair told KHQA. "Twenty-seven years as a police officer, and I've never seen a person as strong as [Lentz] is. God has special work for her."
Adair described the priest as "not even remotely close" to what's depicted in the composite sketch; instead Adair says he was between 60 to 65 years of age, about 5'6" tall, with an olive complexion and a "very strong" accent. He added to KHQA that the priest was dressed in a traditional black shirt and pants and wore a white collar with a silver, older looking cross around his neck.
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 Lentz.
But while the diocese remains unsure of what really happened, Joyce adds that the "feeling is clearly something occurred. There were many witnesses that were involved. There was an anointing involved.”
Catholic leaders aren’t spending too much time on the case. While they are 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.
Carla Churchill Lentz, the mother of the accident victim, said her daughter's car was so twisted that rescuers said no one should have been able to survive. "I do believe he certainly could have been an angel dressed in priest's attire because the Bible tells us there are angels among us," she told the Daily Mail.
Here's an earlier report from KHQA: