Nun’s body exhumed years after her death shows no signs of decomposition
The small rural town of Gower, Missouri has become an unexpected pilgrimage destination after the exhumed body of a nun showed no visible signs of decomposition – four years after she was buried.
Hundreds of people flocked to the town 40 miles north of Kansas City to marvel at the well-preserved body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, with many calling it a “miracle in Missouri.”
Lancaster, at the age of 70, founded the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles.
She died in May 2019 at age 95, according to the Catholic News Agency.
Last Thursday, Benedictine nuns dug up the coffin of their foundress to move it under the altar of the convent chapel, as is the custom.
“The cemetery staff told us to only expect bones in these conditions, as Sister Wilhelmina was buried without embalming and in a simple wooden coffin,” a nun told Newsweek.
But when Mother Abbess Cecilia Snell looked through a crack in the coffin, she said she saw “a totally intact foot with the sock on, looking exactly as it did when we buried it”.
The abbess told Eternal World Television Network, a Catholic outlet, that her first reaction was to say in disbelief, “I didn’t just see that.”
Armed with a flashlight, she then took a closer look and confirmed her initial observation, drawing cheers from the other nuns.
When the sisters fully opened the coffin, they were amazed to discover Lancaster’s body with almost no signs of decomposition.
The nun, speaking to Newsweek on condition of anonymity, said she and her fellow students took turns touching Wilhelmina’s shod feet, which she described as “very wet, but all there”.
“The dirt that fell early had grown on her facial features, especially her right eye, so we placed a wax mask over it,” the nun revealed. “But her eyelashes, hair, eyebrows, nose and lips were all there, her mouth was about to smile.”
The nuns then lifted Lancaster’s body, which they said weighed up to 90 pounds, the Catholic News Agency reported.
After the nuns washed a layer of mold off Lancaster’s body, her habit, and the wreath and bouquet of flowers she was buried with, everything looked immaculate.
“I mean, there was just this feeling that the Lord was doing this,” Snell said. “Right now, we need hope. We need it. Our Lord knows it. And she was such a testament to hope. And faith. And trust.”
The Roman Catholic Church has documented several hundred cases of incorruptible bodies over the centuries.
A preserved body unaffected by the natural process of decay is thought to be a mark of sainthood, but this does not necessarily make a person a candidate for sainthood.
That didn’t stop throngs of devout Catholics from traveling to Gower – in some cases hundreds of miles away – to view Sister Wilhelmina’s intact body.
“It was beautiful,” said Mary Lou Enna, a pilgrim who came with her son and wife from Kansas City. “At first it was just a little unreal. But as I looked at her, the tears started to flow and I knew it was real and very, very meaningful.
Bishop James Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, released a statement about the inexplicable events in Gower.
“The state of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster’s remains naturally aroused wide interest and raised important questions. At the same time, it is important to protect the integrity of Sister Wilhelmina’s mortal remains to allow for a thorough investigation,” he said.
The second of five children born to Catholic parents in St. Louis, Lancaster had a mystical experience during her First Communion aged 9, when she claimed to have seen Jesus, whom she described as ‘beautiful’ .
According to the biography written by her religious community, Jesus asked the girl to be his.
When Lancaster was 13, she decided to become a nun and pursued her plan as soon as she graduated from high school.
She became known for her dedication to the traditional Latin Mass and spent years fighting to preserve the tradition of wearing a habit, even going so far as to make it herself when the sisters stopped making it. produce.
To construct the rigid headdress, Lancaster used an empty plastic bleach bottle.
Her improvised habit may have saved her life when she was stabbed by a student while working as a teacher in Baltimore.
His biography stated that Lancaster’s high collar, known as the gimp, deflected the attacker’s stab.
When another sister asked Lancaster if she planned to continue wearing the habit, which has fallen out of favor with most nuns, she reportedly replied: Yes! I’m Sister WIL-HEL-MINA – I WILL HELL and I FEEL IT!”
Lancaster’s body will remain on display at Gower Chapel until May 29, after which it will be placed in a display case for protection.