Nun whose body shows little decay since 2019 death draws hundreds to rural Missouri

Hundreds of people flocked to a small town in Missouri this week and last to see a Black nun whose body has barely decomposed since 2019. Some say it’s a sign of holiness in Catholicism, while others say the lack of decomposition may not be as rare as people think.

Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster was exhumed in April, according to a statement from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, in Gower, Missouri.

ADVERTISING


The nuns had been preparing for the addition of a St. Joseph shrine, and that involved “the reinterment of the remains of our beloved foundress, Sister Wilhelmina,” the statement said.

When they exhumed Lancaster, they were told to expect only bones, since she had been buried in a simple wooden coffin without any embalming four years ago.

Instead, they discovered an intact body and “a perfectly preserved religious habit,” the statement said. The nuns hadn’t meant to publicize the discovery, but someone posted a private email publicly.

Volunteers and local law enforcement have helped to manage the crowds in the town of roughly 1,800 people, as people have visited from all over the country to see and touch Lancaster’s body.

“It was pretty amazing,” said Samuel Dawson, who is Catholic and visited from Kansas City.

Dawson said there were a few hundred people when he visited and that he saw many out-of-state cars.

Visitors were allowed to touch her, Dawson said, adding that the nuns “wanted to make her accessible to the public … because in real life, she was always accessible to people.”

The monastery said in a statement that Lancaster’s body will be placed in a glass shrine in their church on Monday. Visitors will still be able to see her body and take dirt from her grave, but they won’t be able to touch her.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Star-Advertiser's TERMS OF SERVICE. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. To report comments that you believe do not follow our guidelines, email hawaiiwarriorworld@staradvertiser.com.