Who is the “mystery priest” whose prayers saved Katie Lentz?

UPDATE: The mystery is solved: It’s Fr. Patrick Dowling of the Diocese of Jefferson City.


By now many of you have undoubtedly been following this fascinating story. Forgive me for referring to numerous other media reports but not linking to them.

No, this isn’t Spirit Daily, but I do love a good mystery. It’s certainly possible that the “mystery priest” is alive and that his presence on the scene has a perfectly natural explanation. But if his appearance was miraculous, then I have a favorite candidate whom I think should be considered.

First, we have this composite sketch derived from some eyewitnesses at the scene:


However, the deputy sheriff who spoke with the priest, shook his hand, and observed him for 20 minutes says the composite looks nothing like him.

Rather, the priest is described n various reports as an older man, with an olive complexion, a thick accent, and wearing contemporary clerical attire (i.e., black pants, a black clerical shirt, and a white clerical collar) with dark rimmed glasses. He was seen to be wearing an older-looking silver cross around his neck, and to be praying an old wooden rosary. If this was the appearance of a saint, due to his attire he seems likely to be a late-20th century priest – not a monk, and not a bishop.

Another witness described the priest as looking like the late actor Walter Matthau, and Deputy Richard Adair admits the resemblance:


The man who comes to mind is Fr. Aloysius Ellacuria, a Basque-born priest who served in the Diocese of Los Angeles and died in 1981. He was known to work miracles, and there is a movement asking the Church to open an inquiry into his possible beatification. Here’s one account of some of his miracles:

Several miracles are attributed to this Claretian priest. Holding a great compassion for the sick, Father Aloysius prayed for example for Cardinal Rigali’s own mother, who had cancer several decades ago who then recovered following treatment.

Anthony Riaza of Murrieta, who was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 5, and given only three months to live.

After Father Aloysius and his guilds prayed “non-stop” for Riaza and the priest offered Masses to him, the boy and his family were told by a baffled doctor following two weeks of tests that he could leave the hospital.

In another incident, Riaza’s mother broke and paralyzed her hand in a freak accident and reluctantly asked the priest for his prayers.

“Right in front of our eyes she got almost complete movement back in her hand and she couldn’t stop crying from happiness,” Riaza wrote in the affidavit.

Kenneth M. Fisher of Anaheim recalls seeing his late nephew’s “crooked arm” straighten before his very eyes while the teen was being blessed by Father Aloysius in Fountain Valley.

He also recalls seeing an elderly woman fall backward during a pilgrimage in Italy in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s and hit her head on the edge of the cement step after the group had visited another mystic there.

“I thought, Oh my God, she’s very seriously injured or dead”. But after Father Aloysius and the other mystic blessed her, “she came to, got up and continued with the rest of us on the pilgrimage. She never even had a headache.”

Those who knew Father Aloysius personally describe him as a humble man with a quiet intensity who always credited God for his many gifts.

Furthermore, I think his image best fits the descriptions we have thus far:



38 thoughts on “Who is the “mystery priest” whose prayers saved Katie Lentz?

  1. Fr. Emil Kapun died young, and this was an older priest – over 60 for sure.

    Fr. DeSmet? I think he would have showed up in cassock, not contemporary priestly attire. Same with St. John Vianney.

    Thomas Merton? Heaven forbid it!

    I’m looking for a late-20th-century priest (because of the attire), an American (because of the location), who looks like Walter Matthau with dark-rimmed glasses, an olive complexion, a heavy accent, a 5’6″ 200lb build, a reputation for miracle working … and a pending cause for beatification that needs a kick-start! Fr. Aloysius Ellacuria would seem to fit the bill, though I’m not sure about his build and complexion.


    • Would an American have a heavily accented English possibly Spanish, German, or Italian? Or do you mean he was a naturalized American ? The cross he had also was “very old”..that doesn’t mean to me something from the 1950’s, probably something more like from the 1850’s. Google some picrues again of Matthau and then the Cure. I don’t think the Cure would come dressed as a priest from the 1800’s otherwise most of these protestant emergency workers wouldn’t have even known him to be a priest. It was Sunday, his feast day, I’m thanking the Cure all the way on this one. And he’s patron of the diocese in Kansas City


      • Fr. Aloysius was born in the Basque province of Spain, and he was 24 when he came to the U.S., so he must have had a strong accent. I take it that his cross and rosary, which are described as “old”, were probably from the old country – perhaps from his childhood. This happened in the Diocese of Jefferson City, MO, and the girl is from Quincy IL, so the Kansas City connection is a bit tenuous methinks. :-) Good point about clerical attire. I’m not ruling out the Cure myself.


      • I don’t know if it was Fr. Aloysius but I’m always glad to learn of new holy saints or those just about to be saints, thank you bringing the good father to my attention.

        I did take comfort that he said he had a dark wooden rosary. Wooden is all I carry for the last several years, the glass bead and metal ones break so easily and get tangled they don’t hold up at all in the pocket.. I have one strong wood one that is with me at all times awake and in my hand when I sleep. it has a thick rope and it was almost too tight at first with too little space between beads but it has loosened up now and it’s doesn’t show signs of failing. I thought about designing one myself, I want it rock solid with a Corpus that is impossible to fall off.


  2. I sent a few photos of Fr. Aloysius to the Ralls County Sheriff’s Department, via the email form on their website, for Deputy Richard Adair (the man in the video interview) to evaluate. Here’s the reply I just received:


    I ran this by Deputy Adair.. He said it wasn’t this person.

    Thank you,
    Dawn Robertson
    Admin Assistant
    Ralls County Sheriffs Dept.”

    Next, perhaps I’ll send them this:


  3. The sheriff’s deputy above said the priest looked “nothing, nothing at all” like the computer generated composite sketch. When I look at Walter Mathau and with a less bulbous nose and smaller..I see the Cure of Ars. Also, the heavy accent which he couldn’t decipher as spanish, german, or Italian. The cure’s accent would be someone just west of Italy and Switzerland. He was about 5’6″ (the cure was very short like that). I beilieve it was the Saint Cure but the part that wouldn’t match is the 200lbs part.


  4. It has occurred to me that many of our protestant friends probably do not understand this exercise. Are we just looking for random matches? No. Catholic theology holds that only a saint – a sinless soul who has reached heaven – can work miracles on earth. The souls in purgatory, at most, can perhaps intercede for their benefactors, but they are otherwise preoccupied. So Catholics will naturally look for a priest with a reputation for holiness to fit this description, alive or dead, whether a canonized saint or someone less recognized.


  5. I might suggest two which also fit the description – Fr Alvaro Portillo was just named for beatification. Don Alvaro was the successor to St. Josemaria Escriva as head of Opus Dei. He is Spanish, but spent much of his adult life in Rome. St. Josemaria himself might fit the description as well – including his dark rimmed glasses.


    • Hmmm..tied in pretty closely with Paul VI and all that Vatican 2 hoo ha which has nearly destroyed the Church. I’m going to venture the guess and say no. We can debate this from now until whenever, It was August 4, a short priest, heavy accent, gray hair, resembled a thinner, smaller Walter Mathau. The Cure of Ars.


  6. I thought of St. Josemaria Escriva – with the dark rimmed glasses and he does look a little like the actor mentioned. Plus, he was such a beautiful, holy priest!


  7. Might I suggest there is no God (or any god), and this was a purely terrestrial and pedestrian event? Just because the person of interest hasn’t come forward doesn’t mean he’s supernatural.


  8. The closest Catolic Church is old and historic, and appears no longer in service. A priest associated with this area was Fr. Peter Paul Lefever who eventually became Bishop of Detroit. He started many of the Catholic Churches in the region- but mid to late 19th century. His picture actually resembles the written description of the priest on the scene.


  9. Perhaps a series of photos of the possible priests mentioned above could be sent by someone to the sheriff’s department soon, while memories are still fresh, to see if any of them are recognized by the Sheriff’s deputy.


  10. My mom has a theory that blew my mind. She says “It’s Jesus.” She pointed out that Jesus still appears on Earth in different forms and that when he appears, people see him differently which could explain the discrepancy in appearance. She pointed out two things: when Jesus approached John and James while the sons of Zebedee were fishing, both James and John argued about what Jesus looked like. James said he was a young man and John said she was a tall man with a beautiful face. Later, after Jesus died on the cross, he appeared and followed the disciples on the road and they did not notice him. Also, my mom points out that St Faustina saw Jesus in the form of an old man at one point. But I would be interested if there was an exact match with a saint.


  11. If this priest is from heaven, an uncanonized Saint, he was permitted to come to earth by God. God’s economy is awesome. He was sent to be the agent of a miracle from God and to make his identity known so that the Church may have one more example of holiness to hold up before us. His life, then, will be exemplary. Perhaps we should pray that he somehow makes his identity known to someone so that the process of sainthood can begin, or in the case of an already Servant of God or Blessed, that it continue.


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