Why thousands are visiting Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster’s body 5 years after the burial


The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, a Catholic nun, which has not decayed since her death in 2019, is attracting thousands of visitors in Gower, Missouri after it was exhumed by the nuns of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles order.

No embalming chemicals were used to preserve her body. The visitors were also allowed to take a teaspoon of dirt from her grave.


According to the nunnery’s statement, the sister was exhumed by the monastery in preparation for a new shrine to be installed involving her reinterment and was discovered with “a perfectly preserved religious habit.”


A visitor from Kansas City, Missouri, Samuel Dawson described it as “very peaceful” and “very reverent”.

Dawson said the nuns let visitors touch Sister Lancaster because they “wanted to make her accessible to the public because, in real life, she was always accessible to people”.

The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster can be seen in this picture. — Screengrab/YouTube/KQ2
The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster can be seen in this picture. — Screengrab/YouTube/KQ2
It is described by many as a sign of holiness but there have been some scientific explanations of this phenomenon.

The Diocese of Kansas City-St Joseph said: “The condition of the remains of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster has understandably generated widespread interest and raised important questions.”

“At the same time, it is important to protect the integrity of the mortal remains of Sister Wilhelmina to allow for a thorough investigation.”

According to the Catholic News Agency, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster died on May 29, 2019, at age 95, and was buried in a wooden coffin.

Rebecca George, an anthropology tutor at Western Carolina University, noted that the “body’s lack of decomposition might not be that rare, adding that coffins and clothing help to preserve bodies.”

She added: “Typically when we bury people, we don’t exhume them. We don’t get to look at them a couple of years out.”

“With 100 years, there might be nothing left. But when you’ve got just a few years out, this is not unexpected.”

In Catholicism, a body that resists normal decay after death is considered incorrupt, and “incorruptible saints give witness to the truth of the resurrection of the body and the life that is to come,” said Catholic News Agency.

Speaking to CNN, Western Carolina University Associate Professor and Director of Forensic Anthropology Nicholas V Passalacqua said, “It’s hard to say how common this is because bodies are rarely exhumed after burial.”

“But there are many famous cases of well-preserved human remains. Not just things like Egyptian mummies which were intentionally preserved, but also things like the Bog Bodies of Europe which were very well preserved for thousands of years because they were in environments with low oxygen that restricted bacterial growth and access to the remains to scavengers.”


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