Featured Image

GOWER, Missouri (LifeSiteNews) — The Mother Abbess of Benedictine Sisters in Missouri revealed that miraculous physical healings appear to have occurred in connection with Sister Wilhelmina, her order’s foundress, whose body was recently found to be incorrupt.

“It seems there have already been physical healings, some quite significant, though we wait on medical confirmation of those,” Mother Abbess Cecilia Snell told The Pillar on Thursday, when asked whether she observed “any particular graces” since Sr. Wilhelmina’s body was exhumed at Gower Abbey.

Mother Cecilia added, however, that she has seen “many more spiritual” graces connected to Sr. Wilhelmina, including “people coming back to the faith, finding strength and peace in their trials, and experiencing Sister Wilhelmina’s prayerful support.”

The body of Sr. Wilhelmina of the Most Holy Rosary, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, was exhumed and discovered to be incorrupt on April 28, the Feast of St. Louis Marie DeMontfort. She is believed by Mother Cecilia to be the first African American woman to be found incorrupt.

Mother Cecilia shared with The Pillar that Sr. Wilhelmina “wanted to instill true devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the community,” and that she was a “great devotee and promoter of the most holy rosary.”

During her life, Sr. Wilhelmina was also known for her deep love of the Traditional Latin Mass, and her devotion to Benedictine contemplation and the Liturgy of the Hours.

Mother Cecilia suggested that it is even more remarkable that Sr. Wilhelmina’s body resisted decay considering that there is no natural explanation.

“Sister Wilhelmina’s body was not embalmed, nor was there anything to preserve her in the state in which we buried her,” she told The Pillar.

She further pointed out that dirt “presumably almost immediately” spilled in through a crack that has been found in Sr. Wilhelmina’s coffin, adding, “There were bugs eating at the foam under her, but none had touched her body or her habit – the latter’s failure to deteriorate being a phenomenon just as miraculous as her intact body!”

Mother Cecilia has previously noted that the lining of the coffin, made of a similar material to her synthetic veil, “was completely deteriorated and gone” even as her veil remained intact.

“To see her again brought us all a deep sense of hope, a sign that death is truly not the end of our story,” Mother Cecilia told The Pillar.

Our Lord is also showing us that incorruptibility, as a sign of holiness, is pointing to Himself as the Bridegroom who waits for us too, waiting for us to be virtuous like our foundress, and ready to meet Him when our time comes,” Mother Cecilia continued.

While the miracle has not yet been confirmed by the Church, hundreds of pilgrims have come to visit Sr. Wilhelmina’s body since the discovery, with some driving hours to Missouri from Kentucky, Illinois, and elsewhere.

Mother Cecilia told The Pillar that “there has been a real slowdown in the deluge of pilgrims over the last couple weeks of May, but that it is “beautiful” to continue to see people flow in every day, with about 75 people attending their Mass every day.

The body of Sr. Wilhelmina initially was placed in the sisters’ chapel and then was moved to be encased in glass near the altar of St. Joseph in the chapel. 

Discovering Sr. Wilhelmina’s body 

Nearly four years after Sr. Wilhelmina’s death, the Benedictine Sisters decided to move her remains into their monastery chapel, as is a traditional custom for founders and foundresses of orders. 

However, the Benedictine Sisters were surprised to discover Sr. Wilhelmina’s body to be almost completely intact, despite not having been embalmed and the wooden coffin having cracked down the middle, allowing moisture and dirt into the coffin.  

“I thought I saw a completely full, intact foot and I said, ‘I didn’t just see that,’” Cecilia related. “So I looked again more carefully.” 

Upon closer examination of the coffin, Cecilia screamed, “I see her foot!” to which the community of nuns “cheered.” 

According to Cecilia, the body weighed “between 80-90 pounds” instead of the expected 20 pounds which skeletal remains should have weighed.  

“I mean there was just this sense that the Lord was doing this,” she said. “Right now we need hope. We need it. Our Lord knows that. And she was such a testament to hope. And faith. And trust.” 

“Not only was her body in a remarkable preserved condition, her crown and bouquet of flowers were dried in place; the profession candle with the ribbon, her crucifix, and rosary were all intact,” read a fact sheet to answer questions about the exhumation. 

“This is not possible,” Mother Cecilia said of the incorruptible sister’s body. “God is real. He protected that body and that habit to enkindle our faith, to rekindle it, to bring people back to the faith.” 

Process of canonization 

In the Catholic Church, the process of canonizing someone a saint, the term given by the Church for individuals who practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, is a multi-stage procedure that can take many years. 

The Catholic Church examines the personal holiness of the individual in addition to miracles attributed to them either during or after their life. Claims of physical healings attributed to Sr. Wilhelmina could support her canonization. 

The Church has canonized many saints whose bodies were discovered to be incorrupt, including Saint Bernadette Soubirous, Saint Cecilia, and Saint Jean Vianney.