Hundreds of people have descended on a rural Missouri town to flock to a convent that recently exhumed the remains of its founder.
Four years after the death and burial of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster at age 95, The Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles made a surprising discovery after sisters exhumed her wooden coffin on May 18 and found her remains to be remarkably intact.
She was originally entombed in the outdoor convent cemetery in Gower, Missouri, and was being relocated to a shrine to St. Joseph in their chapel, according to Catholic Key magazine.
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," according to the Catholic News Agency.
The process to pursue sainthood has not been initiated "in this case yet," Bishop Johnston, the Diocese of Kansas City–St. Joseph, said in a statement.
In an email to USA TODAY, Lori Rosebrough of Overland Park, Kansas, who stood in line to see the remains, said the incorrupt body is a testimony to Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster's holiness, and that she hopes this will give cause to the Catholic Church to raise the nun's title to Saint.
Rosebrough said she wasn't going to pass on the "incredibly rare opportunity" to see "the hand of God at work."
"Not many people can say that they touched and prayed over the body of a saint," Rosebrough explained. "I believe that the thousands of us that made the trip to Gower, Mo this week can now say that we have."
The Diocese said they are working to "establish a thorough process for understanding the nature of the condition of Sister Wilhelmina’s remains," which have "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," the statement said.
According to Bishop Johnston, "incorruptibility has been verified in the past, but it is very rare."
At age 13, Mary Elizabeth Lancaster (who took the name Wilhelmina when she made her vows) wrote to the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore seeking permission to join, “but she was too young (so) she had to wait a little bit longer,” according to the Catholic News Agency. At age 70, she founded the order of sisters, a group that’s well known for their chart-topping Gregorian chant and classic Catholic hymn albums.
For those who wish to see the body, the monastery advises visitors to bring folding chairs and umbrellas for waiting.
“There are thousands of people coming,” the monastery’s website says. “Please note that you will still be able to see Sister’s body and touch relics of her habit and take dirt from her grave after the morning of the 29th, at which point she will be placed in the glass shrine in our church.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Catholics at Missouri convent to see exhumed nun's intact remains