A small town in Missouri, USA, has seen been flooded with visitors after the body of a nun, exhumed after four years, showed no visible signs of decay.
According to The New York Post, hundreds of visitors have flocked to the town of Gower where the body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster was exhumed in a remarkably well-preserved state – so well preserved, in fact, that some are calling it a miracle.
Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster was founder of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. She died in 2019 at the age of 95.
Last Thursday, four years after her death, the sisters decided to move her remains under the altar in the chapel, as is customary. However, exhuming her coffin revealed a remarkable sight – Lancaster’s body appeared to be intact despite the fact that she wasn’t embalmed.
“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,” one of the nuns told Newsweek, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"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."
The sister said that once mold and mildew were cleaned, it looked as if Sister Wilhelmina “had just put [the habit] on her that day.”
Miracle in Missouri?
The small town of Gower, Missouri, has now seen an influx of Catholics who believe that Sister Wilhelmina’s body is incorruptible. Some have even described this occurrence as a “miracle in Missouri.”
Incorruptibility is a Catholic belief that some human bodies (specifically saints and those who have undergone beatification) are miraculously preserved after death. However, a preserved body does not make one a candidate for sainthood automatically. The Roman Catholic Church has seen several hundred documented cases of incorruptible bodies, according to New York Post.
So is the case of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster unique? The jury is still out on that.
“In general, when we bury a body at our human decomposition facility, we expect it will take roughly five years for the body to become skeletonized,” Nicholas Passalacqua told Newsweek. Passalacqua is director of forensic anthropology at Western Carolina University.
“That is without a coffin or any other container or wrapping surrounding the remains. So for this body, which was buried in a coffin, I personally don't find it too surprising that the remains are well preserved after only four years.”