Hundreds of people are flocking to the small town of Gower, Missouri, to see the body of a nun who died in 2019 and was recently exhumed, showing no visible signs of decomposition. The founder of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster’s body was being moved to its final resting place inside the monastery chapel.
According to the Catholic News Agency, the practice is a long-standing custom to place the remains of founders and foundresses under the altar of the church. Seemingly immune to the natural process of decay, the church calls them “incorruptible saints.” They say it is a sign of holiness and that the person lived a life so closely aligned with Christ that normal processes are delayed.
Wilhelmina was not embalmed and buried in a simple wooden coffin, which is said to have had a crack down the middle. Because of the crack, a layer of mold grew inside.
One nun told Newsweek, "We were told by cemetery personnel to expect just bones in the conditions, as Sister Wilhelmina was buried without embalming and in a simple wood coffin."
"We went out to her grave to say the rosary after the sisters finished the digging," the sister said. "Mother Abbess Cecilia looked through the crack made in the coffin, which very clearly occurred soon after her burial. She saw a totally intact foot with the sock on, looking just like it did when we had buried her. She could not help but scream with joy."
"We took turns feeling the still-socked feet, very damp, but all there," the sister said. "The dirt that fell in early on had pushed down on her facial features, especially the right eye, so we did place a wax mask over it. But her eyelashes, hair, eyebrows, nose and lips were all present, her mouth just about to smile."
"After we cleaned off the mold and mildew because of the wet conditions in the coffin, it looked like we had just put [the habit] on her that day. This was a testament to her love for the sisterhood and what she was passing down to us who followed her."
Mother Cecilia, the current abbess of the community said, “We think she is the first African American woman to be found incorrupt.”
“I mean there was just this sense that the Lord was doing this,” Cecilia said. “Right now we need hope. We need it. Our Lord knows that. And she was such a testament to hope. And faith. And trust.”
“Not only was her body in a remarkably preserved condition, her crown and bouquet of flowers were dried in place; the profession candle with the ribbon, her crucifix, and rosary were all intact,” the organization said in a statement. “Even more remarkable was the complete preservation of her holy habit, made from natural fibers, for which she fought so vigorously throughout her religious life. The synthetic veil was perfectly intact, while the lining of the coffin, made of similar material, was completely deteriorated and gone.”
There have been a number of people who come from all over to witness the “miracle.” One man who made the trip said, “In a world right now that’s really struggling with so many false gods, we are seeing glimpses of evidence that God is there,” he continued, “Those of us who are faithful don’t need evidence, but when we see evidence, then we know it.”
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