GOWER, Missouri: Hundreds of people flocked to the small town of Gower, Missouri, to see a mummified nun, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, whose body has barely decomposed since she died in 2019.
According to a statement from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster was exhumed in April to prepare for the addition of a St. Joseph shrine, which involved "the reinterment of the remains of our beloved foundress, Sister Wilhelmina."
As Lancaster had been buried four years ago in a simple wooden coffin without being embalmed, officials only expected to extract her bones, but instead discovered an intact body and "a perfectly preserved religious habit," the statement added.
Volunteers and local law enforcement from Gower, a town of some 1,800 people, assisted in managing crowds who visited from around the country to see and touch Lancaster.
"It was pretty amazing. It was very peaceful. Just very reverent," said Samuel Dawson, a Catholic who visited from Kansas City with his son, as reported by the Associated Press.
In a statement, the monastery said that Lancaster's body will be placed in a glass shrine in their church on Monday, and visitors will still be able to see her body and take dirt from her grave, but will not be able to touch her.
In its own statement, 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."
"Incorruptibility has been verified in the past, but it is very rare. There is a well-established process to pursue the cause for sainthood, but that has not been initiated in this case yet," the diocese added.
Lancaster has not yet reached the required minimum of five years since death for the sainthood process to begin, the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, noted.
However, Rebecca George, anthropology instructor at Western Carolina University in North Carolina, 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 added.