The Student Newspaper of Cathedral Catholic High School

Dons Press

The Student Newspaper of Cathedral Catholic High School

Dons Press

The Student Newspaper of Cathedral Catholic High School

Dons Press

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Body Still in Tact After 4 Years!

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Sister Mary Elizabeth Lancaster is an African American nun from Baltimore Maryland whose body has reamined in tact and untouched after four years. Many Catholics believe in incorruptiblity. No investigation has been carried out yet to presume the cause of her body still in tact but further information is still being provided.

Who would have thought a potential modern-day saint could be from rural Missouri? Most people who live in Missouri have never even heard of the town of Gower. 

Mary Elizabeth Lancaster on April 13, 1924 in St. Louis, Missouri.  She joined the Oblate Sisters of Providence, an order of African American nuns in Baltimore, Maryland, when she was 17 years old and her name changed to Sister Wilhelmina. After joining the order, Sister Wilhelmina was a schoolteacher in the eastern United States for over 50 years.

In 1995, at the age of 70, dissatisfied with what she saw as a loosening of standards in the Oblate Sisters of Providence, Sister Wilhelmina founded a new order called the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Sister Wilhelmina died in 1995, on May 29.   

In 2005, the Order moved to Gower, Missouri from Scranton.  Four years after Sister Wilhelmina’s death, the Benedictine Sisters exhumed Sister Wilhelmina’s body on the feast of Louis de Montfort so her remains could be re-interred in their church. After digging, they lifted the simple wooden coffin and quickly noticed a massive crack down the middle of the lid. The priest of the order, Mother Cecilia, discovered that Sister Wilhelmina’s remains, including her religious habit, were almost perfectly intact.

The owner of the funeral home in Gower and issuer of her death certificate, confirms that Sister Wilhelmina was not embalmed and that the wood coffin was not placed into any outer burial container.

Wilhelmina had an encounter with Christ during her First Communion. Mother Cecilia Shell recalls Wilhemina saying, “He is so handsome, how could I say no?” Wilhelmina states that Jesus was asking her if she would be his. She knew she wanted to be a nun from the age of 13. Sister Wilhemina grew up during a time of segregation and was often discriminated against. Sister Wilhemina is remembered for her love for Our Lady. 

Catholics believe in incorruptibility. Incorruptibility is a Catholic and Eastern Orthodox belief that divine intervention allows some human bodies to completely or partially avoid the normal process of decomposition after death as a sign of their holiness. Some may ask, “Why do some saints’ bodies not decompose?” It is believed that God preserved the bodies of some saints from the normal decomposition process because of their sanctity. For example, Pope John XXIII, his body is in a glass box in the Vatican and it looks as if he had “died yesterday.” 

No investigation has yet been carried out to rule out any natural causes for the presumed phenomenon, and the Catholic Church has not ruled on Sister Wilhelmina’s case. A cause for the foundress’ canonization has also not been approved by the Church.

It will be interesting to watch what happens with this most interesting Catholic mystery that has happened in the Midwest in modern day 2023.

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About the Contributor
Annelise Motto
Annelise Motto, Staffer
Annelise Motto was born in San Francisco. She moved from the Bay Area to San Diego last year. She is a senior at Cathedral Catholic High School. She played varsity tennis last year and hopes to play lacrosse in the spring. Annelise loves being involved in the community and writing about her interests like spiritual life. Annelise enjoys going shopping with friends and soaking up the warm weather at the beach.

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