Nun's Exhumed Remains Cause a Stir in Missouri

Believers say body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster is miraculously preserved
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 28, 2023 10:10 AM CDT
Pilgrims Heading to Missouri to See Nun's Exhumed Remains
Stock image.   (Getty / Sean824)

Thousands of people are making a pilgrimage to a church in rural Missouri to pay their respects at the coffin of a deceased nun. The unusual thing is that Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster—founder of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles—died four years ago at age 95, reports USA Today. The reason the pilgrimage is happening now is that nuns of the order say they inadvertently discovered that Wilhelmina's remains have remained remarkably well preserved—so much so that the most ardent believers suspect as miracle is afoot, notes Insider. The church isn't going that far, yet.

The Catholic News Agency reports that Wilhelmina's body was originally buried in a wooden coffin, without embalming, in an outdoor cemetery. In the process of transferring her remains to an indoor shrine, nuns say they were surprised to find that her body and even her garment had not noticeably decayed. (See the CNA for images.) The abbess of the monastery in Gower has said she suspects Wilhelmina may be what the church considers "incorrupt." The CNA explains that "incorruptibility is the preservation of the body from normal decay after death."

Bishop James V. Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City–St. Joseph says the diocese is investigating. "Incorruptibility has been verified in the past, but it is very rare," he says in a statement. "There is a well-established process to pursue the cause for sainthood, but that has not been initiated in this case yet." USA Today notes that the order followed by Wilhemina is perhaps best known for its popular Gregorian chant and Catholic hymn albums. (Read more Catholic Church stories.)

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