Four years after the burial of their foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles conducted a routine exhumation and found the Sister’s body was remarkably incorrupt. News about the body’s condition has already spread through the American Midwest, drawing many to make a pilgrimage to the nuns’ monastery in Gower, Missouri.
An African-American, Sister Wilhelmina grew up in St. Louis during segregation and faced further resentment for being the lone Catholic among her peer group of Baptists and Methodists. Despite all the derision, however, Sister Wilhelmina never failed to treat everyone she met with charity, and she continued to carry that attitude through her vocational life. A full summary of the Sister’s life, from a mystical experience at her first communion to the founding of her order, can be found here.
While the news of a potentially incorrupt body has generated interest among the faithful, there has been no official determination that Sister Wilhelmina’s remains are incorrupt, nor is there any cause underway for her canonization. Bishop Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph recently announced that he is creating a process to understand the nature and condition of Sister Wihelmina’s remains, and cautioned visitors against touching or venerating her body or treating them as relics. Bishop Johnston further invited the faithful “to continue praying during this time of evaluation and determination for God’s will in the lives of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles; for all women religious; and all the baptized in our common vocation to holiness, with hope and trust in the Lord.” Bishop Johnston’s full statement can be read here.
Photo Courtesy of the Benedictines of Mary