(NEW YORK) — The Missouri woman for whom a “mystery priest” prayed over minutes after a near-fatal car accident said her recovery is driven by the people who’ve become interested in her story, which some believe was divine intervention.
Katie Lentz, 19, is now able to walk 150 feet after she suffered more than a dozen broken bones in her legs and ribs. It’s a monumental milestone for Lentz, who was involved in a head-on collision Aug. 4.
Lentz says she’s grateful for the first steps and expressed gratitude to the first responders and the “mystery priest” who were there for her during her time of need.
“Their calmness kept me calm as well. So I cannot express my gratitude enough toward them,” Lentz told ABC News.
Lentz was pinned in the front seat of her convertible after the crash on Route 19 near Center, Mo. Rescue workers struggled to free the woman from the mangled metal car and her vital signs began fading while rescue equipment was failing. With time running out, Lentz told the first responders to pray with her.
“I had no idea what state my body was in at that time, and they all knew,” Lentz said. “I haven’t come to the full realization that I had a near-death experience. It hasn’t hit me yet.”
That’s when the priest, later identified as the Rev. Patrick Dowling, appeared seemingly out of nowhere to pray with Lentz. Dowling gave her the anointing of the sick, as well as absolution.
After Dowling performed his duties, he left the scene quietly. Firefighters say the moment he left, a neighboring department arrived with fresh tools that were able to free Lentz.
But Dowling’s sudden disappearance only added to the air of mystery. Dowling wasn’t in any of the nearly 70 photos or videos taken near the scene, which left many wondering whether he was an angel from above. It wasn’t long before the entire town and soon the country were searching for this seemingly heavenly hero who was dubbed the “angel priest.”
“I have no doubt the Most High answered their prayers and I was part of his answer, but only part,” Dowling, a priest in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Jefferson City, told ABC News earlier this month.
Lentz was eventually airlifted from the scene but she never imagined so many people would be interested in her story.
“I love hearing that support, because it’s what drives me to push myself harder everyday with therapy,” she said.
Lentz has had to relearn how to put on her shoes and walk. She is a classically trained violinist, and is trying to regain full use of her fingers.
She knows the recovery is an uphill battle, but it’s one she intends to fight with all the people who have found solace in her story.
“It is hard sometimes, but I realize that so many people have been touched by this, so I have to keep focused on the good and not bad, because it’ll just bring me down,” she said. “And I definitely don’t want that.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Eliott C. McLaughlin, CNN
Paul R. La Monica, CNN
Samira Said, CNN
Betsy Klein, CNN