GOWER, Missouri (LifeSiteNews) — A Benedictine congregation of nuns in Missouri has released its first statement since unexpectedly discovering the intact remains of their foundress nearly four years after her death.
Pilgrims have been flocking to Gower, Missouri, after the body of Sr. Wilhelmina of the Most Holy Rosary, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, was exhumed on April 28.
LifeSiteNews is publishing in full the newly released statement, which was sent by email to friends of the community earlier today.
Dear Families, Friends and Benefactors,
By now, most of you have heard of the events that have transpired at the Abbey, especially surrounding the exhumation of our Sister Wilhelmina. We simply want to reach out to you to clarify a few points.
Our Abbey had been planning the addition of a St. Joseph Shrine within the oratory for quite some time, including the reinterment of the remains of our beloved foundress, Sister Wilhelmina. Last month, in preparation for the construction of the shrine, we exhumed her, having been told to expect bones in the highly moist clay of Missouri, as she was buried in a simple wooden coffin without any embalming whatsoever four years ago.
The intent was devotional, and to carry this out in the privacy of our cloistered life. Nevertheless, the discovery of what appeared to be an intact body and a perfectly preserved religious habit created an unexpected twist to our plans. We had no intent to make the discovery so public, but unfortunately, a private email was posted publicly, and the news began to spread like wildfire. However, God works in mysterious ways, and we embrace His new plan for us.
Many have voiced concern about the disruption to our life, but we have, thankfully, remained unaffected and able to continue on in our life of ora at labora, prayer and work, as Sister Wilhelmina would have it. Unless we looked out the front windows, or out at the crowds attending our Mass and Divine Offices, we would not even know people are here. 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, as they allow us to continue our life in peace, while granting the visitors a pleasant and prayerful experience at the Abbey.
Regarding what seems to be the miraculous preservation of Sister’s body, we are given the opportunity to contemplate the great gifts God gives us every day, especially the ones that are literally hidden from our eyes. St. Augustine said that “We marvel at what is extraordinary. Think of the fact that a few seeds bring forth an entire field of wheat.” Of this and ordinary daily miracles, he says, “We don’t bother to reflect on this fact because it is always there. What we notice are events that aren’t part of the ordinary course of nature. They are works that God has reserved for particular times and places to cause us amazement and dumbfound us so that we will open our minds to God’s presence and care in all events and beauties.” We believe that even as Sister Wilhelmina’s whole life and death was a miracle, pointing the way to Almighty God, that what she has left behind continues to point to His Resurrection and the life of glory that awaits us.
The relics of a person are exhumed in the ordinary course of action for the opening of the causes of saints, leading many to believe that such a cause has been or will be opened. As this is not the case, we continue on with a simple reinterment of our foundress, and are seeking advice on a possible opening of a cause in the future, especially as Sister has not yet reached the required minimum of five years since death in order to begin. Initial statements regarding Sister’s extraordinary physical state have already been procured, but we acknowledge that further studies must be done later, in an official capacity.
While we can attest to Sister’s personal sanctity, we know that incorruptibility is not among the official signs taken by the Church as a miracle for sainthood, and that all things must be subjected to further scrutiny, especially by the competent authorities in the medical field. The life itself and favors received must be established as proof of holiness.
While we rejoice in the shared love for our foundress, we ask prudent patience for everyone, so that a proper process may begin legally, when the time is right, and if God wills that we should devote our efforts to working with Holy Mother Church on the advancement of the recognition of the holiness of our foundress. We know this is a long process, with the collection of data, and a more detailed study of her life and remains. We ask your prayers as we discern carefully where to go from here.
In the meantime, we follow her beautiful example, especially in appreciating the little daily miracles with which God blesses us every day. Please know of our prayers for all the people of good will who have contacted or visited the Abbey, the countless number of people who have shown their support and appreciation for the life and legacy of our Sr. Wilhelmina. May we pray, as she did, that God’s will be done in all things.
Editor’s note: The following video shows Mother Wilhelmina during Fr. Anthony Pillari’s daily rosary, recorded May 27, 2023.