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Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster found Incorrupted
Pilgrims flock to a remote Benedictine monastery in rural Missouri following the stunning discovery that the exhumed remains of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, the African American foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, appear to be incorrupt, four years after her death and burial.
The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster has been found incorrupt.
At the age of 70, Sister Wilhelmina founded the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles in 1995, leaving her community of over 50 years, the Oblate Sisters of Providence, to do so. Renowned for their highly acclaimed Gregorian chant and Catholic hymn albums, the Benedictine Sisters gained widespread recognition.
Sister Wilhelmina, known for her devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass, Benedictine contemplation, and the Liturgy of the Hours, passed away at the age of 95 on May 29, 2019, coinciding with the solemnity of the Ascension.
On the same day as the Ascension, four years later, the abbess and the sisters made the decision to transfer Sister Wilhelmina's body to its final resting place within the monastery chapel, a customary practice for founders and foundresses.
Expecting to find only bones, the Benedictine Sisters were astonished when they uncovered a coffin with a seemingly intact body. Despite the absence of embalming and a cracked wooden coffin that allowed moisture and dirt to enter over an unknown period of time, Sister Wilhelmina's body remained remarkably preserved.
Mother Cecilia, the current abbess of the community, shared their belief that Sister Wilhelmina may be the first African American woman to be found incorrupt. As the abbess, it was her responsibility to examine the contents of the coffin initially.
While the body was covered in mold due to high condensation levels within the cracked coffin, little of her body and none of her habit had disintegrated during those four years.
The community was immediately overcome with shock and awe upon witnessing the astonishing preservation.
"I thought I saw a fully intact foot and thought, 'That can't be right,'" exclaimed the abbess. "So I looked again, more carefully."
After a closer examination, she exclaimed, "I see her foot!" which elicited cheers of joy from the gathered community.
"There was this overwhelming sense that the Lord was behind this," she added. "In these times, we need hope desperately. Our Lord knows that, and Sister Wilhelmina was a beacon of hope, faith, and trust."
The Catholic Church has a longstanding tradition of recognizing "incorruptible saints," over a hundred of whom have been beatified or canonized. These saints are referred to as incorruptible because their bodies, in part or in whole, defy the natural process of decay even years after their death. Despite modern embalming techniques, bodies typically undergo decomposition.
According to Catholic tradition, the incorruptible saints serve as witnesses to the truth of bodily resurrection and the eternal life that awaits. Their lack of decay is regarded as a sign of holiness, reflecting a life so deeply connected to Christ that corruption and sin are miraculously held at bay.
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