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Kansas City (symbolic image): The incorruptible body was unearthed near the city, in the monastery "Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles" in Gower

Photo: Charlie Riedel/ AP

Hundreds of people in the United States have made a pilgrimage to a monastery in rural Missouri in recent days to see the body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster. Four years after her death and burial in a simple wooden coffin, her body shows no signs of decay. This is reported by the Catholic News Agency.

Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster was the founder of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, a convent in Gower, Missouri, about an hour outside of Kansas City. She died on May 29, 2019 at the age of 95. It is customary for founders to be exhumed to be taken to their final resting place in a monastery chapel.

Coffin allowed moisture and dirt to pass through

When the Benedictine nuns dug up the Sag, they were expecting bones. Instead, an apparently intact body was revealed. And this despite the fact that he was not embalmed. Especially since the wooden coffin had a crack in the middle, through which moisture and dirt could penetrate.

In Catholicism, bodies that defy the process of decay are described as "incorruptible", are seen as signs. More than 100 bodies are considered "incorruptible," reports the Catholic News Agency. We believe she is the first African-American woman to be found unharmed," said the current abbess of the community, Mother Cecilia.

"I see her foot!"

The body was covered with a layer of mold that had formed due to the high level of condensation in the cracked coffin. Despite the dampness, little of her body and none of her religious habit had decomposed in the four years. The congregation that had gathered to exhume them were shocked after the find. "I see her foot!" cried the abbess – and the congregation, she says, "just rejoiced."

Carefully, the sisters removed the body from the coffin. The skeletonized remains should have weighed about 20 pounds (about 9 kg). Instead, the sisters lifted a body that they estimated weighed "between 80 and 90 pounds (about 41 kg)," the abbess said.

Air caused the body to shrink

At first, the Benedictine nuns did not know how to deal with the body. "You can't google what you do with an incorruptible body," said Abbess Cecilia. "So we started with the basics, just cleaning her with hot water, because there was a mask of thick mold on her face." As a result of this process and contact with the air, the body lost some volume and the skin darkened.

For the time being, the sisters have made a wax mask for Sister Wilhelmina's face. Eyelashes, eyebrows and eyes are still present. But one of the eyes has sunk into the coffin due to the weight of the dirt. Sister Wilhelmina's hands were also smeared with wax.

The body will lie in state in the Sisters' Chapel until May 29. After a rosary procession, Sister Wilhelmina's body will be wrapped in glass in the chapel "to welcome her growing number of followers", according to the sisters' newsletter.