Nun whose body was exhumed after four years encased in glass after thousands of people came to visit

1 June 2023, 08:45 | Updated: 1 June 2023, 12:38

Thousands of people have flocked to the church to see the nun's remains
Thousands of people have flocked to the church to see the nun's remains. Picture: Alamy
Kieran Kelly

By Kieran Kelly

A nun whose body has barely decomposed since her death in 2019 has been encased in glass after thousands of Catholics flocked to see her.

Thousands of Catholics have flocked to a monastery in Missouri, USA, to see Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, who was exhumed in April.

When Ms Lancaster was exhumed so her tomb could be improved, they were told to expect only bones, since she had been buried in a simple wooden coffin without any embalming four years ago.

But the nuns instead discovered “an intact body and a perfectly preserved religious habit,” according to a statement by church officials.

Her body has now been placed in a glass display so she could be carried around the property of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus on Monday, as nuns recited the rosary and sang hymns.

Thousands are thought to have flocked to the site
Thousands are thought to have flocked to the site. Picture: Alamy

Religious experts say the lack of decay is a sign of holiness in Catholicism, with some calling for her to be made a saint, though others have suggested it is not rare.

The local ordinary, Bishop Vann Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, has called for a "thorough investigation" so "important questions" can be answered.

Read More: Catholics flock to US church to pray over body of nun who was exhumed after four years with almost no signs of decay

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Meanwhile, thousands have been flocking to the site to see what some have described as a "miracle".

One visitor wrote online: "I don’t know if she will be canonized a Saint or not but I do know how blessed we feel, my sister Valerie and I, that we were able to venerate her in person with our daughters."

Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster's body was exhumed in April
Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster's body was exhumed in April. Picture: Alamy

Another said: "This is possibly a once in a lifetime chance that we got to experience...to touch and be in the presence of the miraculously preserved remains of a beloved nun who may become a saint one day."

Following an influx of visitors, a statement from the monastery read: "An army of volunteers and our local law enforcement have stepped forward to manage the crowds, and we are deeply grateful to each of them."

Read More: MPs reject attempts to allow silent prayer outside abortion clinics after Catholic woman arrested for second time

Rebecca George, an anthropology tutor at the Western Carolina University in North Carolina, said the body's lack of decomposition might not be as rare as people are expecting.

Ms George said the "mummification" of un-embalmed bodies is common at the university's facility and the bodies could stay preserved for many years, if allowed to.Coffins and clothing also help to preserve bodies, she said.

"Typically, when we bury people, we don't exhume them. We don't get to look at them a couple years out," Ms George said.

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

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