Who is Sister Wilhelmina and why are people flocking to see the nun’s body in Missouri?
People in this article
TW: This article may contain graphic images
Many visitors flock to Missouri to see the Gateway Arch, Mark Twain’s childhood home or catch a glimpse of where rapper Eminem grew up, however around 1,800 people have been travelling to the state’s city of Gower over the past month to see the body of a deceased nun.
Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, who was the foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles order, was buried in 2019 without being embalmed. Now, four years later after being exhumed, her body has been found remarkably well preserved with many calling it a holy sign.
While the jury is still out to see if there will be a scientific investigation surrounding the state of her remains, as some believe the delayed decaying process is not entirely uncommon (facts show that some bodies take up to five years), the debate has intrigued the masses as to who the former nun was.
Those who have visited Sister Lancaster were able to see and touch her corpse and even take a spoon of soil from her grave in which her plain wooden coffin laid.
Although she was known as Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, she was born to Catholic parents in St Louis as Mary Elizabeth Lancaster on Palm Sunday, 1924.
Her first religious experience took place at the age of nine at her first Communion before she wrote to the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore asking to be a sister, just four years later.
According to the Catholic News Agency, the letter read: “Dear Mother Superior, I am a girl, 13 years old, and I would like to become a nun. I plan to come to your convent as soon as possible. I will graduate from grade school next month. What I want to know is whether you have to bring anything to the convent and what it is you have to bring. I hope I am not troubling you any, but I have my heart set on becoming a nun (of course I am a Catholic.) God bless you and those under your command. Respectfully, Mary Elizabeth Lancaster.”
Although she was initially turned away as she was deemed ‘too young’ to join the nunnery, Sister Lancaster went on to spend 75 years under religious vows and founded the order who topped musical charts with their Gregorian chant and Catholic hymn albums.
As some suspect that the preservation of Sister Wilhelmina’s body in death is a holy sign, they might suggest that a higher power protected the nun during her life as well as her make-shift habit (a headpiece worn by nuns) allegedly protected her when she was teaching a class and a student attacked her with a knife.