GOWER, Mo. — Catholic faithfuls are making the pilgrimage to Gower, Missouri, to witness what they describe as a miracle.
“It’s great to be reminded that it can happen in our lifetime,” one person said.
“She’s a Saint already. I already have her canonized,” another said.
“We drove in like a 3-hour drive and walked straight into mass,” another woman in the group said.
These statements are from just some of the hundreds traveling to the Benedictine monastery in Gower, a small town about an hour north of Kansas City.
The focus is a body revealed to have no signs of decay four years after burial.
In the words of the sisters, it is “incorrupt.” The word incorrupt lends special meaning to Catholics as it signals a possible path to sainthood.
The person at the center of the attention is Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, who is described as the African American foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles.
The sisters told the Catholic News Agency that after her death she was buried but not embalmed.
After four years, the sisters recently exhumed the body in a ceremony with plans to move her body to a final resting place inside their monastery chapel. The sisters expected to find bones in her cracked wooden coffin, but instead they found her looking not so different from when she went it.
On Tuesday, license plates from Arkansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and even Pennsylvania in the drive to the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus showed how far people were driving to visit.
“Two days ago,” Justina Auck from Columbia, Missouri said about when she heard about the body being incorrupt. “And then I got with my friend, and I was like ‘OK, let’s make this happen.'”
“Can you explain to me the significance of the body being incorrupt?” FOX4 asked.
“Well, that’s just a sign that she was a very holy woman and the lord blessed her and her life and at death because she was faithful to her vocation,” Sister Faustina Marie who was visiting from Council Bluffs, Iowa said.
Even Sister Wilhelmina’s habit, which was made of cheap material, looked good to the sisters who told the Catholic News Agency all they did was wash away a thin layer of mold and do some wax coating on the body’s face and hands.
Families said Tuesday that it’s worth witnessing.
Auck said she brought four of her kids, and her friend brought six of her own. With children in tow, it required some extra explaining of what they would see.
“To the younger ones, they didn’t really ask those particulars. But the older ones — yes. We definitely, yes, Googled the decay process because we’re not familiar with exactly how long things take,” said Krista Strunk, who was visiting from Clearwater, Kansas.
“I was really excited and then when we got here I saw her laying there and I was very, very like, in awe,” 11-year-old Max Strunk said.
And there was clear consensus among visitors.
“Yes,” Barbara Revers said when asked if she feels like it’s a miracle. “We need it at this time. It’s such a bad time. We need this ray of heaven. We need this badly.”
The sisters said they have been overwhelmed with the amount of interest this situation is getting and did not want to do more interviews out of fear it would drive more people to their location.
According to their plan, they will eventually encase Sister Wilhelmina in glass for long-term viewing.