(LifeSiteNews) –– Imagine being the biological sister of a saint. That would be interesting and a blessing enough. Now imagine being not only the sister of a saint, but for a time also a religious sister in a convent founded by a saint!
My guest today on the John-Henry Westen Show, Sasha Keyes, may one day be able to claim precisely that. She joins me today to discuss Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster from her time as a nun with the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, as well as her late half-brother, Fr. Kenneth Walker, FSSP.
Keyes recalls meeting Sr. Wilhelmina when she joined the Benedictines of Mary, back when they were still the Oblates of Mary in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania. Sr. Wilhelmina was hand-picked by the bishop of that diocese to establish the order after a couple of nuns told him about their desire to establish a new order to help the nascent Fraternity of St. Peter.
When she first joined the convent, Sr. Wilhelmina had Keyes ironing the sisters’ habits. Describing Sr. Wilhelmina, she recalls especially her character. “The way I would describe her was a feisty, sassy, tiny … very spunky,” Keyes remembers. While Keyes recalls that Sr. Wilhelmina would “sass” her superior, she was not “mean” when doing so, however, but was “mostly making fun of herself in a sense and her shortcomings, which speaks highly of her humility.”
Describing her visit to Sister’s grave, Keyes tells me that she smelt what she identified as “almost a myrrh oil,” though the smell came from Sister’s body. As she knelt next to Sister and prayed, Keyes recalls hearing Sister’s voice telling her that all was well despite how she left the convent.
“Sister Wilhelmina was as sassy as ever, and she told me that she would be with me … and that she would answer my prayers,” Keyes relates, adding that Sister told her that all she needed to do was pray to get what she asked for. “Apparently she did that with the sisters,” Keyes continues. “She told them, ‘Exhume my body. You’ll see something really cool. Just dig it up. Come on.’ Kept appearing in their dreams, telling them ‘You need to do this.’”
In this interesting episode, Keyes also discusses Sister Wilhelmina’s life of prayer, recalling that “she was very humble in prayer” and that Our Lady visited her on multiple occasions. She also describes the posture that Sister would have when adoring the Consecrated Host while at Mass, with her eyes following It, “internalizing the joy that God was there and she was about to receive,” and doing the same with the chalice. Eventually, the other sisters began doing the same, and by Keyes’ recollection, the people at the Fraternity parish in Scranton “began emulating that in a sense” as well.
During our discussion on Fr. Walker, Keyes describes him as a “goofy kid,” she recalls that he and his siblings would build forts on the cliff faces near where they grew up, and that they would play “church” instead of house, with Fr. Walker playing the priest and Keyes the choir director.
At college, Father was called “Kenny Le Flash,” because he would run around everywhere, Keyes continues, and recalls that the girls of the college were grateful for his helping them study for classes. All the while, Father had a heavy load of classes beyond what was expected of him. He would graduate from college a semester early and join the Fraternity of St. Peter shortly thereafter.
Keyes reads from her brother’s letter to the seminary as to why he was considering the priesthood. Father wrote that he shared the grief of the Church regarding the fact that so many had false ideas about the nature and dignity of man, deviating from their supernatural end, and that he wanted to bring people back to God – a work “best carried out by the priesthood” through the ministration of the sacraments and sound teaching.
“Those words are exactly who he is in life and in death,” Keyes declares. “When he was alive, he would visit people’s home, bringing the … pilgrim of Fatima statue … and pray with them,” she recalls.
Keyes also describes posthumous encounters that she has with her brother. Recalling the first, she told Father she wanted a rainbow. She immediately started seeing rainbows everywhere. When she began asking for prayers for people, more rainbows came, sometimes natural rainbows, other times people sending her pictures of rainbows and her children giving her drawings they did of rainbows.
Recalling a miracle believed to be wrought by her brother’s intercession, Keyes tells me about her neighbor’s aunt called Lorraine, who told Keyes that she was suffering from the final stages of a cancer that had spread to her brain, and lamented that she had no time left to “get things right.” Keyes invited Lorraine to pray to her brother for his help, and that she would speak to him on her behalf also.
When the two met again two weeks later, Lorraine told Keyes about how the cancer in her brain had disappeared, and that although she still suffered from the rest of the cancer, it was enough for her to go to confession, and finish her “bucket list.” “She said she understood things about her faith that she had not been understanding before and that she finally was able to make things right,” Keyes relates.
Once Lorraine had died, her husband planted a rose bush in a place where things usually didn’t grow. Not only did the rose bush grow, but it produced roses of many colors during the middle of the Kansas winter. Roses continue to bloom on the bush.
Many miracles have been attributed to Fr. Walker’s intercession, all of them having one theme. “Every single miracle that I have ever heard has been for the sole purpose of salvation,” Keyes finds. “It may not be for a complete healing. It may just be for the time to get yourself right with God. But it’s the time that we need, and that is what really counts. And it is what his dream was. I’m so happy to see that it didn’t stop.”
For more from Keyes on both Sr. Wilhelmina and Fr. Walker, tune in to this fascinating episode of the John-Henry Westen Show.
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