A church near Kansas City says it has a miracle: The body of a nun who died 4 years ago hasn't decomposed, and the nun may be a saint

The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster at the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, seen with the hands of people praying over the body.
People praying over the body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster at the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in Gower, Missouri.Charlie Riedel/AP
  • A Missouri abbey is allowing people to visit the body of a nun who died four years ago.

  • The abbey's nuns say Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster may be an "incorruptible."

  • The term refers to the miracle that some bodies don't decompose all the way after death.

A small abbey in the northern Kansas City metro area says it has a wonderous mystery on its hands: the "miraculous preservation" of the body of a nun who died four years ago.

And you can come see her for yourself at the small abbey in Gower, Missouri, every day from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

The Benedictines of Mary Queen of Apostles, who run the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, were shocked when they exhumed Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster and found her body to be almost perfectly preserved after four years in a coffin, The New York Times reported. Even her habit — the headdress often worn by nuns — was considered "immaculate."

The nuns' intent had been to reinter Lancaster, who died in 2019 at age 95, in an honorable place within the church. But finding her preserved body led them to suspect she's an "incorruptible," a Catholic term referring to those whose bodies miraculously don't decompose entirely after death, the Times reported.

"Regarding what seems to be the miraculous preservation of Sister's body, we are given the opportunity to contemplate the great gifts God gives us every day, especially the ones that are literally hidden from our eyes," says an undated letter on the website for the Benedictines of Mary.

Lancaster would be the first Black incorruptible in the world, as well as the first American incorruptible. Most reported cases have been in Europe, the Times wrote.

"I used to think something like this could only happen in Europe, or St. Louis," Edith Riches, a 13-year-old who volunteered to hand out water to people waiting in line to see Lancaster, told the Times.

The sisters wrote on their website that the abbey planned to inquire as to whether Lancaster might be canonized as a saint.

Correction: September 12, 2023 — An earlier version of this story imprecisely referred to the location of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus. It's in Gower, Missouri, in the Kansas City metropolitan area, not in the city of Kansas City, Missouri.

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