Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster Has Much to Teach Us About Persevering Courage, Joy and Charity

The Supernatural Virtue of Charity must guide us in how we conduct ourselves with our fellow redeemed creatures in this mortal vale of tears. Saint Paul the Apostle noted this clearly in his First Epistle to the Corinthians:

[6] Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth with the truth; [7] Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. [8] Charity never falleth away: whether prophecies shall be made void, or tongues shall cease, or knowledge shall be destroyed. [9] For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. [10] But when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

[11] When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child. [12] We see now through a glass in a dark manner; but then face to face. Now I know in part; but then I shall know even as I am known. [13] And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity. (1 Cor.: 1-13)

The supernatural virtue of Charity was infused into our souls when we were Baptized. As Saint Paul teaches us, it is the only infused virtue that lasts in the souls of the just for eternity. We will have no need for the supernatural virtues of Faith and Hope if we have died in a state of Sanctifying Grace and thus gain the Beatific Vision. Indeed, it is the privation of the Supernatural Virtue of Charity from the souls of the unjust that damns them to Hell for eternity.

Charity is not an empty-headed sentiment. Authentic Charity consists in mirroring God's love for us, which wills our good, the ultimate expression of which is the salvation of our immortal souls. We do not love ourselves or others authentically if we do or say anything that interferes with the sanctification and salvation of their souls in any way. As is the case with the other two supernatural virtues-and with the natural virtues, Charity must be increased in our souls by our worthy and fervent reception of Our Lord in Holy Communion and by the rooting out of our venial sins and failings by frequent use of the Sacrament of Penance. Charity is also increased by our voluntary acts of penance and mortification, the time we spend in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, our total consecration to the Mother of God, Scripture reading, spiritual reading, and devotions such as the Stations of the Cross.

The precepts of the virtue of Charity demand that we treat our fellow human beings as we would treat Our Lord Himself. This does not mean, however, that we look the other way as someone we know persists unrepentantly in a life of sin or makes war upon the Deposit of Faith or upon the reverent worship of God in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. It does mean, though, that we are required to remember the fallen state of us all when we undertake the necessary task of correcting those who are in error, always trying to join a firm rejoinder with an assurance of prayers for those who err. While recognizing a duty to correct error and falsehood with necessary firmness and resolution, we have a fundamental duty to pray for all people-and to remind others to do so.

The conciliar revolutionaries, for whose conversion we must pray every day, of course, have succeeded beyond their wildest imaginings in so utterly devastating the lives of believing Catholics that many, justifiably angry at the revolutionaries’ incessant attacks upon the entirety of Catholic Faith, Worship, and Morals, point fingers at other believing Catholics who disagree with them about the state of the Church Militant in this time of apostasy and betrayal. This delights the adversary no end as the enemy of God and of the salvation of men delights in stoking anger and division among those who love the Catholic Faith and are trying to defend it as best to the best of their abilities despite their own fallen human natures. Families have been riven apart and friends have become estranged because of the unprecedented nature in which those who claim to hold the highest offices in the Catholic Church have attacked believing Catholics and have embraced all that is false, ugly, perverted, and blasphemous.

Our Lady told Melanie Calvat and Maximim Giraud that families would be divided in these latter times:

"Priests, my Son's ministers, priests, by their evil life, by their irreverences and their impiety in celebrating the holy mysteries, love of money, love of honor and pleasures, priests have become sewers of impurity. Yes, priests call forth vengeance, and vengeance is suspended over their heads. Woe to priests, and to persons consecrated to God, who by their infidelities and their evil life are crucifying my Son anew! The sins of persons consecrated to God cry to heaven and call for vengeance, and now here is vengeance at their very doors, for no longer is anyone found to beg mercy and pardon for the people; there are no more generous souls, there is now no one worthy of offering the spotless Victim to the Eternal on the worlds behalf.

"God will strike in an unparalleled manner. Woe to the inhabitants of the earth! God will exhaust His anger, and no one will be able to escape so many evils at once. The heads, the leaders of the people of God, have neglected prayer and penance, and the devil has darkened their minds; they have become those wandering stars which the ancient devil will drag with his tail to destruction. God will permit the ancient serpent to sow divisions among rulers, in all societies and in all families; both physical and moral punishments will be suffered. God will abandon men to themselves and will send chastisements one after the other for over 35 years.

"Society is on the very eve of most terrible scourges and greatest events; one must expect to be governed by a rod of iron and to drink the chalice of God's wrath. (The Message of Our Lady of La Salette.)

The era of apostasy and betrayal in which we live has indeed sown divisions all across the vast expanse of the ecclesiastical divide, especially in our families. There is hardly a family in the Church today that has not been riven by the events of the past sixty-four years. A state of "cold war" exists in so many families over the most important matter in their lives: the salvation of their immortal souls as members of the Catholic Church. Husbands and wives, parents and children, brothers and sisters are estranged from each other as the adversary seeks to embitter hearts in the midst of his advances in the popular culture and within the counterfeit church of conciliarism itself.

These family divisions exist even in families who are immersed in all things conciliar, including their "full, active and conscious" participation in the Protestant and Masonic Novus Ordo service. A wife, for instances, might see, at least in shadow form, "problems" with the Novus Ordo while her husband does not, considering that any discussion of "problems" is a sign of "disloyalty" to the "pope" and to the Church. A husband might want to enforce standards of modesty within his household, only to find that his wife has received carte blanche from their local conciliar "pastor" to dress herself and her children as she pleases. Some other wife, fearful of the curriculum found in their local conciliar schools, might want to home school her children while encountering deep resistance from her husband. Other families in the conciliar structures are torn apart on matters of whether to watch television at all, no less the offensive programming that is broadcast around the clock each day, and whether to consider "rock music" evil, finding little comfort and support from their local "pastors," especially when "youth" "Masses" feature "rock music" and immodesty.

Some families are riven over the most basic issues of the Faith: Who is God? Why should I obey Him? Why are His Commandments unchanging? Why should I believe that there is one true Church? What can't I dress as I want and watch what I want on television or at the movies? Why don't all people go to Heaven no matter what they believe or how they behave? Why do I have to pray to Mary when I can go "straight" to Jesus Himself? Who says there is a Purgatory? What's the big deal about shopping on Sunday? Why can't women be priests? Why can't I limit the number of children I want to have? Who says women can't wear pants and short skirts and sleeveless blouses? Why can't men walk around shirtless or sleeveless themselves?

Such has been the triumph of the conciliar revolution that large numbers of baptized Catholics get married even as they have been denied a true understanding and love of the Holy Faith, leading to untold amounts of grief in the future in the event that one spouse actually grows in the Faith and wants his family's life to revolve around It so that each family member can strive for sanctity and be in Heaven for all eternity. All manner of "mixed marriages" exist even between baptized Catholics as one spouse's belief in and commitment to the Faith varies from the other spouse's. A desire to grow in sanctity on the part of one spouse can clash with the other spouse's desire to be worldly and to be accepted as "normal" by others who are equally worldly.

This is a problem that exists across the ecclesiastical divide, but it is heightened considerably when one spouse embraces the Immemorial Mass of Tradition while the other "prefers" the Protestant and Judeo-Masonic Novus Ordo liturgical travesty, no less when one spouse comes to understand that the Catholic Church cannot be responsible for the novelties and abominations and sacrileges and blasphemies of the past sixty-four years while the other spouse thinks that such a conclusion is a sign of "mental illness." Hard feelings are sometimes engendered. Battle lines are drawn. Phone calls are made to relatives and friends to convince the "wacko" spouse who is committed to that "old Mass" and/or who believes that the "pope" is not the pope that he is wrong and in need of psychological, if not psychiatric, assistance. Imagine being "different" from others, especially when somewhere around 99.99% of people completely reject any semblance of a view that the "Vatican," of all places, is wrong about the "new" "Mass," the new ecclesiology, episcopal collegiality, the nature of dogmatic truth, episcopal synodality, false ecumenism, religious liberty, and separation of Church and State?

While it is one thing to state with firmness the unmistakable truth that the Catholic Church  has not been, is not now, nor can ever be her counterfeit ape that is the counterfeit church of conciliarism, it is quite another to throw stones at those Catholics who are still attached to the conciliar structures in the belief that they are being faithful to Holy Mother Church as they pray and “fight from within” to “make things better.” Many of us had long journeys that took us from “fighting on Mindanao” to coming to accept the fact that Throne of Saint Peter has been empty since the death of Pope Pius XII on October 9, 1958

Indeed, as I have noted in the past, I was one of those who “fought from within” for a very long period of time as sought to exhort those college students of mine who were Catholic to take the Faith seriously and to urge my non-Catholic students to convert to the true Faith, and I sought to defend the inviolability of innocent preborn life in the classroom and in the public forum, up to and including both running for elected office myself and participating actively as a volunteer but nevertheless officially sanctioned surrogate speaker for a presidential campaign in 1995-1996, volunteered my time to teach religious education in “conservative” parishes,” and began to promote the so-called “indult” in the 1990s.

Most importantly, though, I went to what I thought was Holy Mass every day, spent time in prayer before what I thought was Our Lord’s Real Presence in the Most Blessed Sacrament, and was faithful in my devotions to Our Lady, especially by means of praying her Most Holy Rosary every day. I, having baptized on January 27, 1952 (sixty-four days after my birth, sadly), made my First Holy Communion on May 30, 1959, and received the Sacrament of Confirmation on March 21, 1961, did not just “become” Catholic (as one thirty-something cradle sedevacantist muttered ignorantly within my earshot in the Fall of 2007) when I came to recognize the true state of the Church Militant in this time of apostasy and betrayal. Though a terrible sinner, the Catholic Faith has defined the entirety of my life.

Similarly, there are Catholics today who, yes, despite the plethora of information available at this time, have yet to realize that the Catholic Church cannot be responsible for any of the travesties that have issued forth from her counterfeit ape. Many of these Catholics are served by “conservative” presbyters who stage what is thought to be a “reverent” liturgy, pray Our Lady’s Most Holy Rosary daily, faithfully give up an hour of sleep every week to pray in the middle of the night in what purports to be Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Chapels, and are, truth be told, more diligent in eschewing worldly trends and in maintaining the most Catholic standards of modesty (including dressing their daughters as befits Catholic femininity; no matter what may be the case in the non-Western world, women dressed in masculine attire was a symbol of the French and Marxist revolutions and has led directly to the so-called “gender dystopia” of these times) than many parents in sedevcantist venues. Indeed, Catholic homeschooling was championed principally by “conservative” and traditionally-minded Catholic parents in the 1970s and 1980s.

Although there is much more information much more readily available now than there was in the 1980s or even the 1990s, seeing the true state of the Church Militant in this time of apostasy and betrayal is not merely a matter of having the information. It is a matter of the working of Our Lady’s graces. None of us, including the unquestionably farseeing and courageous Catholics who saw and accepted the truth about the papal vacancy as early as the middle to late 1960s, would have been able to have realize and accept the fact that the See of Peter has been vacant since 1958 without the help of Our Lady as well as the prayers of a whole lot of Catholics in the Church Militant, the Church Suffering, and the Church Triumphant for us to do so. We should also remember that, according to the teaching of Saint Louis Grignion de Montfort, no one who prays Our Lady’s Most Holy Rosary will be lost.

It is with this in mind that we should be rejoicing at the holy life of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, who spent fifty years fighting to maintain the Catholic Faith, including the wearing of her traditional habit as a professed member of the Sisters of Divine Providence before seeking what she believed to be a refuge provided by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter in 1995, while praying that the fact that her body has remained incorrupt four years after it was buried in a plain wooden casket without any protective covering will help those within the conciliar structures who believe that the Novus Ordo liturgical travesty pleases God to discover the beauties of the Immemorial Mass of Tradition and, from there, to come to see what took many of us so long to see: that the conciliar church is not the Catholic Church.

Thus, instead of castigating the very brave Sister Wilhelmina as some, especially those noted for disparaging the importance of Our Lady’s Most Holy Rosary, have done, all believing Catholics should recognize that the following account of her life, published on June 2, 2023, four days after her body had been transferred after having been exhumed and examined, provides Jorge Mario Bergoglio with one of his worst nightmares: a black Catholic woman who fought to maintain her traditional habit and then founded her own community of Benedictines within the auspices of a “papally” approved institute, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, in order to hear what she thought was Holy Mass in a version of the Traditional Roman Rite:

When the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles exhumed the body of their foundress Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, OSB, on April 28, they found the unexpected: Four years after her death and burial in a simple wooden coffin, her body appeared remarkably well preserved.

The news quickly spread on social media about the unusual state of the remains of the contemplative order’s African American foundress, drawing hundreds of pilgrims to the monastery in rural Missouri.

Questions remain to be answered about whether an investigation will take place to examine her remains scientifically. In the meantime, many people want to know more about this woman who, at the age of 70, founded the order of sisters best known for their chart-topping Gregorian chant and classic Catholic hymn albums.

The second of five children born to Catholic parents in St. Louis on Palm Sunday, April 13, 1924, Mary Elizabeth Lancaster (she took the name Wilhelmina when she made her vows) was raised in a deeply pious home. 

According to the current abbess, Mother Cecilia Snell, OSB, and as told in a biography published by her community, the future Sister Wilhelmina had a mystical experience at her first Communion at age 9 wherein Jesus invited her to be his. 

“She saw something of him at her first Communion. Maybe not very clearly, but she saw he was so handsome,” the abbess said. 

“He said, ‘Will you be mine?’

“And she said, ‘He is so handsome, how can I say no?’”

After this experience, at age 13 her parish priest asked her if she ever considered becoming a sister. Though she had not, she was quickly moved by the idea and 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.”

The excerpt of the letter reveals a stunning straightforwardness and enduring faithfulness, given that she would die having lived 75 years under religious vows. 

“Dear Mother Superior,” it reads. “I am a girl, 13 years old, and I would like to become a nun. I plan to come to your convent as soon as possible. I will graduate from grade school next month. What I want to know is whether you have to bring anything to the convent and what it is you have to bring. I hope I am not troubling you any, but I have my heart set on becoming a nun (of course I am a Catholic.) God bless you and those under your command. Respectfully, Mary Elizabeth Lancaster.”

Growing up under segregation, Mary Elizabeth was once taunted with the nickname “chocolate drops” as she ran through a white neighborhood on her way home from school, and although she also was ridiculed as the lone Catholic among Baptist and Methodist peers, she refused to harbor resentment for her treatment

When the local Catholic high school became segregated under the Christian Brothers and public school seemed like her only option, her parents went to great efforts to ensure that their daughter and her schoolmates could continue their Catholic education. 

According to Sister Wilhelmina, as recounted in her biography, her “parents, who did not want me to go to the public high school, got to work and founded St. Joseph’s Catholic High School for Negroes, which lasted until Archbishop Ritter put an end to segregation in the diocese.” 

She graduated as valedictorian of the school her parents helped to found and then entered the Oblate Sisters of Providence, one of only two religious orders for Black or Hispanic women. She would remain with these sisters for 50 years under vows. 

The habit and the Traditional Latin Mass 

During her 50 years in religious life, Sister Wilhelmina witnessed the changes brought by Vatican II and sought to preserve the habit, even constructing one of her own when the sisters stopped producing them.

“She spent so many years fighting for the habit,” said Mother Cecilia, who said Sister Wilhelmina took seriously the idea that the habit signifies the wearer as a bride of Christ. 

According to her biography, she made a habit for herself, creating parts of the headdress out of a plastic bleach bottle even as her sisters no longer wore theirs

As the Catholic Key reported, her homemade habit may have saved her life when she was working as a teacher in Baltimore and the stiff, high-necked collar known as the guimpe deflected the knife of a disgruntled student

Her biography tells of an occasion when a sister passing her in the hallway pointed at the traditional headdress and asked, “Are you going to wear that all the time?” 

“Yes!” Sister Wilhelmina responded and would later quip, “I am Sister WIL-HEL-MINA — I’ve a HELL of a WILL and I MEAN it!”

After years of trying to get her order to return to the habit, she happened to hear about the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter starting a group of sisters, and she had rediscovered the Latin Mass and fell in love with it, Mother Cecilia said. 

“And one day, she packed her bags — and she’s 70 years old, and she went to found this community — just a complete leap of faith.” 

In 1995, with the help of a member of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter, the community began. Over time, it would take on a more contemplative and distinctly Marian charism, with a special emphasis on praying for priests. 

In her proposal for a new community, Wilhelmina said she wanted to return to regular observance, something she petitioned for during the general chapter of the Oblate Sisters of Providence. “The wearing of a uniform habit, the surrendering of all monies to a common bursar, the obeying of lawful authority in all departments, the guarding of enclosure and of times and places of silence, and the living together an authentic fraternal life,” she wrote.

In short, in her new community, she imagined a return to the ordinary discipline of religious life. 

The new community, which began in Scranton, Pennsylvania, followed St. Benedict in his Rule and chanted the traditional Divine Office in Latin. In 2006, the community accepted an invitation from Bishop Robert W. Finn to transfer to his Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri. 

In 2018, their abbey, Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, was consecrated with Mother Abbess Cecilia as the first abbess with Sister Wilhelmina under her authority. In 2019, seven sisters left the abbey to establish the order’s first daughter house, the Monastery of St. Joseph in Ava, Missouri.

Today, the sisters continue to lead lives of silence and contemplation, following St. Benedict’s Rule. They partake in the Extraordinary Form of the Mass and use the 1962 Monastic Office, with its traditional Gregorian Chant, in Latin.  

Sister Wilhelmina is remembered for her love of Our Lady, even in the last years of her life, when she was suffering from fragile health.

Regina Trout, a former postulant who cared for Sister Wilhelmina and is now married with children and a lecturer in biology at Purdue University Fort-Wayne, recalled seeing her visibly moved.

“Whenever you would talk to her about Our Lady, you could just see that spark. She loved Our Lady so much, and that came through so strongly,” she said. 

Sister Wilhemina’s last conscious words — ”O Maria,” sung two days before her death as part of the hymn “O Sanctissima” — were a reflection of her deeply Marian piety as well as the charism of the chart-topping music that glorifies God that the Benedictine Sisters of Mary are known for. 

“She loved our Blessed Mother,” Mother Cecilia said. “That’s what she would tell everybody coming here. Pray the rosary. Don’t forget to pray the rosary. Love the Blessed Mother. She loves you.” 

“Her death was beautiful,” the abbess told EWTN’s ACI Group. “God arranged everything.”

“We were singing ‘Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all.’ When we got to the rest of the song — ’Had I but Mary’s sinless heart, with which to love Thee with, O what joy’ — she opened her eyes and looked up.

“I mean, she had been comatose. We know she could hear us, but she was just not responsive at all for a couple of days. And then she just looked up with this face full of bursts of love.”

For the abbess, it seemed like “she was just already in heaven” in those moments.  (Who was Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, whose body is now the center of attention in Missouri?.)

Before turning your attention to Sister Wilhelmina’s own short biography, which is found on the website of the Benedictine Abbey of Our Lady of Edessa, a few short observations are in order now.

First, the remarkable life and death of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster do not validate anything about the counterfeit church of conciliarism nor even about the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter that is not already well-established, namely, that the organization was founded by priests of the Society of Saint Pius X after who had refused to go along with Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre’s consecration of Bishops Richard Williamson, Bernard Fellay, Bernard Tissier de Mallerais, and Alfonso de Gallarata on June 30, 1988. It is the case that many of us found our way back to a semblance of Catholic tradition by the existence of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter in the United States of America, whose home chapel in Scranton, Pennsylvania provided more than a few Long Islanders such as me with a refuge during Holy Week in 1994 after Karol Josef Wojtyla/John Paul II permitted girl altar boys.

However, the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter, which has a smattering of true priests within its ranks, is irretrievably bound to the falsehood that the conciliar “popes” have been legitimate and, consequently, are duty bound to remain silent about “papal” acts and words that are contrary to the Holy Faith. The fact that Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster found her way back to Tradition through the auspices of the Fraternity speaks to us only about the quest that many Catholics undertook to try to remain faithful to what they thought was the Catholic Church by remaining “within the structures” by adhering to what was once called an Ecclesia Dei community. Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster’s quest for beauty and truth speaks to us about this pure, innocent soul’s love of God, of her own personal holiness, and this is admirable and should serve as a source of inspiration for those who us, who, being absolutely no better than any of our fellow believing Catholics who have not yet seen the true state of Holy Mother Church in this time of apostasy and betrayal, have been blessed to see the truth and to have access, if only occasionally in all too many instances, to the true Sacraments.

Second, Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster’s love of Tradition stands in sharp contrast to Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s incessantly obsessive attacks upon those who love the Mass of all ages and who believe that God and His Holy Truths are immutable. Yes, Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster embodied everything that Jorge Mario Bergoglio hates, especially in the life of a professed religious as he loved the contemplative life, which the Argentine Apostate, loathes and mocks, and fought to maintain the traditional habit of the Oblates of Divine Providence as befits a Bride of Christ. Yet the wonderful irony in Bergoglio’s hatred of such a Catholic cannot be vented against Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster as she was an African American woman. I think that the no good snook from Buenos Aires will maintain silence for the time being and may not say anything at all even if an “official” investigation proves that the preservation of Sister Mary Wilhelmina’s mortal remains in an incorrupt manner is indeed miraculous, which I, for one, do not doubt.

Third, Sister Mary Wilhelmina’s mother, Ella Lancaster, did want Jorge Mario Bergoglio has consistently condemned and inveighed against: she made converts to the Catholic Faith. Lots of them. Over one hundred, and each of them came from the ranks of black Baptists, some of whom were in agreement with Church doctrine but were repulsed by the racialism exhibited in many of the Catholics that they knew. Ella Lancaster would later write to say that she could have won more converts had it not been for the bad example of so many Catholics, something that could teach us who understand the true state of the Church Militant on this time of apostasy and betrayal a thing or two as it is certainly case that some, although far from all, within our ranks either condemn those Catholics who have not seen the truth yet or keep pushing information upon them that they are not ready to accept. Conversion of any kind takes time, and it is too often the case that potential converts fail to recognize that the frailties of those who profess the truth do not invalidate what it is true, which stands independently of human acceptance of it and of the failure of those who profess it to be charitable in all their doings.

More to the point, however, is that Ella Lancaster’s zeal for souls, which, of course, influenced her own daughter, Mary Elizabeth Lancaster, the future Sister Mary Wilhelmina, contrasts sharply with the condemnation of “proselytizing” by Jorge Mario Bergoglio and so many other of his fellow conciliar revolutionaries, each of whom is content to let both non-Catholics and Catholics who are living, objectively speaking, in states of Mortal Sin die in their unbelief and/or the stench of their unrepented sins. How does Jorge Mario Bergoglio deal with Ella Lancaster? He can’t, which is why he must and will ignore this fact of Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster’s life.

Fourth, the incorrupt nature of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster’s body is feeding the faith of those Catholics within the conciliar structures who are starved for something that is authentically Catholic. Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster’s entire life bore witness to trying to maintain the Catholic Faith as best as she was able, and she gave up her life in the Oblate Sisters of Divine Providence fifty years after entering the novitiate to form an entirely new community that sought to recapture a true spirit of the Catholic religious life that she had known prior to the changes wrought by the “Second” Vatican Council and its aftermath.

No matter the fact that Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster did come to accept the true state of the Church Militant in this time of apostasy and betrayal, perhaps principally because she was overjoyed to in an environment where she could have the regularity of prayer and devotion, especially True Devotion to Mary, that was lacking in the Oblate Sisters of Divine Providence, and thus paid little attention to events in the world. Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster was filled with such joy just at being in a community where it was thought that she had access to the Immemorial Mass of Tradition (which she did on those occasions when a true priest offered Holy Mass; her own Requiem Mass was offered by Father Arnaud Devillers, who is, as noted earlier, a true priest) and being with other Catholic women filled with the innocence and joy and whose hearts were purely attached to the things of Heaven in all that they did.

This is what drew the multitudes to drive from all parts of the country to Gower, Missouri, as her incorrupt body was displayed during the Memorial Day weekend prior to her reinternment on Monday, May 29, 2023. Ordinary Catholics, knowing that there are only around one hundred authentically incorrupt saints worldwide, flocked to Gower, Missouri, to do what their sensus Catholicus taught them to do: to touch their Rosaries and other holy objects to the body of a religious sister who fought to retain Catholic Tradition to the best of her ability, a woman who maintained joy in all that she did, a woman whose parents had such a zeal for souls and such a desire to have children kept away from public schools that they started Saint Joseph High School for Negro children at a time when the Catholic school system in Missouri was segregated. More importantly than anything else, it was Sister Mary Lancaster’s True Devotion to Our Lady, especially by means of her Most Holy Rosary, that inspired so many ordinary Catholics to venerate an admirable figure whose life might inspire some of their own children to aspire to the religious life.

Once again, it is to indemnify nothing about the conciliar structures to note the fact that there are still lots of ordinary Catholics within them who are trying to eschew the world and live the Holy Faith even though they are entirely unaware that they are doing so in the same manner as the Japanese Catholics between the end of the Sixteenth Century and 1854, that is, having access only to Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony (save for those times when a true priest offers the Mass of the ages and/or hears their confessions). We must pray that these good souls find their way to the true Sacraments and to recognize the counterfeit nature of the conciliar officials and their liturgical rites.

Fifth, the incorrupt nature of Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancatser’s body is also inspiring even some secular professors of mortuary science and, in the case of at least one Catholic professor of mortuary science, to develop a devotion to her:

Expert morticians are scratching their heads at the recently exhumed body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, a Benedictine nun who died in 2019 and now appears to be in an unexpected state of preservation.

The reactions come a week after the abbess and sisters of the community that she founded, the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, unearthed the 95-year-old African American religious sister’s simple wooden coffin on April 28 from the cemetery on the monastery grounds in rural Gower, Missouri, to relocate her remains to a final resting place inside their chapel.

The local ordinary, Bishop Vann Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, visited the monastery Monday to see Sister Wilhelmina’s remains. Johnston issued a statement the same day, saying that a “thorough investigation” was needed to answer “important questions” raised by the state of her body.

Jack Klein, owner of Hixson-Klein Funeral Home in Gower, Missouri, who said he was present at Sister Wilhelmina’s burial and issued her death certificate, confirmed for CNA that the religious sister’s body was not embalmed and that the wood coffin was not placed into any outer burial container. 

Klein said he “can’t understand” how Sister Wilhelmina’s un-embalmed body is in the state it’s currently in, four years after her burial.

David Hess, program coordinator and associate professor in the mortuary science department at Salt Lake Community College in Salt Lake City, expressed similar surprise.

“If the body was not embalmed, and it was still intact after four years, that one kind of throws me,” he told CNA. “I would have expected the body to be decomposed, maybe not all the way down to bone, but at least severely decomposed.” 

Sister Wilhelmina’s body, which has been on display in the open air for pilgrims to visit, is reported to have no foul odor in recent days, as would be the case, morticians say, with a body that has undergone decomposition for four years.

One pilgrim, Peggy Tynan of Denver, even told CNA that while praying over Sister Wilhelmina’s body on May 24, she smelt a “sweet and flowery aroma,” which was so powerful she could taste it. A journalist from EWTN’s ACI Group who visited the body last weekend also noticed no odor of decomposition.

“It’s kind of strange, if the body was not embalmed, that there would be no odor,” Hess said.

There has been no official determination that Sister Wilhelmina’s remains are incorrupt, nor is there any cause underway for her canonization, a formal process in the Catholic Church that can take many years. Her fellow sisters plan to hold a procession on Monday on the monastery grounds and then place Sister Wilhelmina’s body under a glass case to accommodate the many pilgrims coming to the property.

An open question is if and how the foundress’ remains will be scientifically analyzed. A diocesan spokeswoman, Ashlie Hand, told CNA on Wednesday that the diocese isn’t aware of any specific Church guidelines for how to conduct such an investigation.

Bishop Johnston is "definitely working on it and trying to find a careful process, a careful approach, that’s well thought through,” she said.

Hand said as many as 1,000 pilgrims reportedly visited the monastery on Wednesday. The diocese has been advising the sisters about how best to handle the influx of visitors, she said.

“The condition of the remains of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster has 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,” Johnston said in his statement.

“I invite all the faithful to continue praying during this time of investigation for God’s will in the lives of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles; for all women religious; and all the baptized in our common vocation to holiness, with hope and trust in the Lord.”

Hess said that he “highly” doubts that grave wax could have preserved Sister Wilhelmina’s body to appear the way it currently does and without any foul odor, “unless she was in a highly alkaline environment.”

Mortician Barry Lease, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, told CNA that a soil analysis testing the pH, or point hydrogen, of the environment, would reveal whether Sister Wilhelmina’s former burial grounds are highly alkaline. According to the Mütter Museum, “Adipocere formation is not common, but it may form in alkaline, warm, airless environments, such as the one in which the Soap Lady was buried.”

Lease said that it’s difficult to project where the body would be in the decomposition process if it was covered in adipocere but added that the body’s decomposition “should be further than that,” referring to a photo of the body taken by CNA on May 20.

“You shouldn’t be recognizing her with just a little bit of mold on her face,” Lease said.

“An unembalmed body in the ground for four years should have some odor coming off of it that would be noticeable,” he added.

“If you’re telling me that this woman went into the ground unembalmed in a wooden box with no outer container in the ground and it was not sub-zero up in Alaska, I’m telling you, I’m going to start a devotion to this sister, because something special is going on there,” Lease, a practicing Catholic, told CNA. (Morticians mystified by Sister Wilhelmina’s body: ‘Something special going on there’.)

Yes, something special is going on here, and this fact should feed the faith of every Catholic and to inspire us all to love Our Lord as purely as did Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster, whose own biography includes her recounting having seen Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ when she received her First Holy Communion:

“First of all, I was born Mary Elizabeth Lancaster on Palm Sunday, April 13th, 1924, the daughter and second child of Oscar and Ella Lancaster. On April 2nd, 1934 I made my First Holy Communion, an unforgettable experience when Our Lord asked me if I would be His. He seemed to be such a handsome and wonderful Man, I agreed immediately. Then He told me to meet Him every

Sunday at Holy Communion. I said nothing about this conversation to anyone, believing that everyone that went to Holy Communion heard Our Lord talk to them.

In those days I hardly knew what belonging to Our Lord meant. At last, several years later, my confessor, Fr. Lawrence Rost, whom I saw every Saturday at Holy Ghost Church two blocks up the street, asked if I ever thought about being a Sister. I had not of course, but he thought I could be a good Sister.

I went to work on the idea right away and wrote to the superior of the Oblate Sisters of Providence in Baltimore, Maryland for direction. Mother Mary Consuella Clifford wrote me back, told me that I was too young to enter the convent and advised that I finish high school first. I was 13 years of age and graduating that year from the eighth grade.

I had been in public school until then. My parents, who did not want me to go to the public high school, got to work and founded St. Joseph’s Catholic High School for Negroes which lasted until Archbishop Ritter put an end to segregation of Negroes in the Diocese. During my four years in high school I sort of put the idea of becoming a Sister on the back burner and applied myself to learning as much as I could about everything there was to learn.

Unfortunately, my parents spoiled me and let me sit down much too much to books and papers when I should have been up cooking, sewing and doing household work. My mother was a bookworm too, and she is mentioned in the little book, Negro Catholic Writers, but as being deceased many years before her death actually happened. Underground, or along with the religious desire, was my desire to become a writer. I wrote my first poem when I was in the 4th grade. I soon had a notebook full of rhymes, but this was not what I really wanted. I wanted to write stories, good fiction, like Little Women, and so on.

While playing with her brothers, seven-year-old Mary asked them to stop to pray the rosary. When they refused, she appealed to her mother, who advised her to say it privately. Our Lady appeared again and thanked her.

The day of my graduation from high school, two Oblate Sisters of Providence were present. When I walked out of the church, I went straight to them standing in the vestibule and told them that I wanted to be one of them. They were shocked, but I had done what had to be done. So that September, at age 17, I left my parents’ house for Baltimore, Maryland. Sister Philomena Michau, one of the Sisters who attended my graduation and who was superior of St. Frances Home for Girls in Normandy, MO gave me a trunk. Two of her Sisters who happened to be going to Baltimore accompanied me on my journey there in September. I knew that the novitiate was a time of trial during which the community would look me over and decide whether I had a vocation to it or not. That September day, however, when I entered the novitiate chapel for the first time, that same Lord Who spoke to me in my First Communion, welcomed me lovingly, put His arms around me and promised that from then on I would be His. My two and a half years in the novitiate were a happy time, during which I learned from a fellow novice about True Devotion to Mary taught by St. Louis De Montfort.

We had no book about it; Sister Alma simply reiterated emphatically that I had no true devotion to Mary because I did not belong to her as her slave. I was so moved by this that I went to the Novice Mistress, Sister Mary Inez Colthirst, and asked if I could become a slave of Mary, like Sister Alma was. Sister Inez, amused, grabbed the chain I was wearing and said that this was the sign that all Oblates were slaves of Mary. The miraculous medal and chain were placed around the neck of each novice when she received the habit.

On March 9th, 1944, I was allowed to make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. In September I was brought to the Motherhouse and assigned to work in the pantry. Soon after New Year’s I was given a fourth grade class whose teacher was being transferred elsewhere. So my teaching career began, a kaleidoscope of good days and bad days that I was constantly praying to be delivered from. I loved study and school, but not teaching. Not until August 1966 did I finally graduate from college. During the 22 years between 1944 and 1966 I had a short, happy stint at housework - mainly cleaning - at St. Rita’s Residence in St. Louis and then at St. Frances Home for Girls where I learned that children had worries and broken hearts.

Improvement on the Oblates’ habit that began in the fifties was completed in August 1962. I was happy about it; uniformity was desired by all the members of the community, and this was a beautiful uniformity. It lasted only five years. In January 1967 individual Sisters were allowed to experiment with the headdress. I was not for this at all.

After too strictly disciplining a student who complained, I fell out of the classroom for good in February 1972. I was brought back to the Motherhouse in Baltimore, newly built on Gun Road. For the first time in my life, the superior general, Sister Mary of Good Counsel Baptiste, asked me what I wanted to do. I immediately replied that I would like to write a history of the Order.

That is how I got to work on archival material. Around this time I became very despondent, feeling that I had failed as a teacher, that I could neither teach nor cook, and therefore why should I be alive. With my head on the desk in my cell, I was inspired with a poem honoring Our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament. When I finished writing it - and it came quite easily - I felt consoled and satisfied.

I immediately took it to Sister Benigna who resided in the infirmary wing, but was still the community’s topmost musician. She was not for any of the musical nonsense that was going on, and I knew that she would give my poem, “We Do Believe”, quick shrift if that is what she thought it deserved. She read it, smiled, and then said, “I am going to write music for this.” In a couple of weeks it was done, and she was teaching it at choir practice. Sister Benigna was one of the few who wore the traditional habit, I mean no hair-showing. I had unfortunately gotten into the new habit - from June 1971until Holy Saturday 1974 I was in it - to my great regret.

Our Blessed Mother helped me put the traditional habit back on when her Pilgrim Virgin Statue of Our Lady of Fatima came to visit our Mount, and the Sisters went in procession to the gate to meet it. Needless to say, my return to the habit was not just for that occasion, but for the rest of my life.

I had no thought or desire of leaving my community in those days, but I was gung-ho for seeing it reformed. We had made a wrong turn, I said, and should go back. The rule of silence and monthly chapter were long gone. Sisters were invited—I was working in the archives then—to submit a replacement or improvement of Chapter.

I wrote something and handed it in but never heard anything of it. Something else that I wrote in December 1972, “Is There Light at the End of the Tunnel?” was presented at a community meeting and caused a stir.

It suggested that the Oblates recognize themselves as three-pronged, one of which would be a contemplative unit. My suggestion nettled those who wanted to see us give up the habit completely. Others who were not as far out as this nonetheless saw the contemplative life as something medieval, dangerous and unjust.

The Chapter of 1973 was an education for me. Although not an elected delegate, I was appointed an extra secretary, and I witnessed all that happened without being able to open my mouth. All Oblates had been allowed to submit proposals to the Chapter, and I submitted mine that a contemplative unit be formed. In Chapter after Chapter I proposed the idea. I thought I had the perfect wording in 1993, that a “traditional house be established” and this passed. It was hamstrung from the very beginning. I saw nothing ahead of me but silent perseverance in the community until I died.

Around the same time I learned of the arrival of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter in Scranton, Pennsylvania from Wigratzbad, Germany. I went with friends in a van to attend Fraternity events such as the solemn dedication of St. Gregory’s Chapel in Elmhurst.

The Holy Father’s Motu Proprio of 1988 Ecclesia Dei was news that I latched onto as salvific. I was determined to return to and attend the Traditional Latin Mass as much as possible.

When a friend of mine, John Ambs, driver of the van to Scranton, suggested that I join the two Sisters in Scranton and form with them a traditional house there, I did not hesitate.

It was Mr. Ambs who collected funds for my entry into the aegis of the Fraternity and presented it, along with my arrival May 27, 1995 to Fr. Arnaud Devillers, fssp. I came bag and baggage that day, most of the books and papers I have since destroyed or returned to the Oblate Sisters of Providence since my break from them June 11th, 1998.

Sixty years after my first vows to God on March 9th, 1944, I renewed my vows in the Benedictine manner, signing the same document that I had signed in 1998 and which the Bishop signed on September 14th, 2004. It would seem I did a very foolish thing. After fifty years as an Oblate Sister of Providence, I started religious life anew as the foundress of a new community affiliated with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter. To those who say that my leaving my old community to found a new one didn’t make sense, I reply that it is understandable only in the life of faith. When other people came, I welcomed them because I wanted to share what I had. ‘The disciples were persevering in prayer with Mary the Mother of Jesus.’ This is a perfect description of the religious sisterhood that formed. If there’s anything I would want to pass on to the community, it would be: Devotion to Our Blessed Mother, True Devotion to Our Blessed Mother.”

Now we wish also to relate to you the final days of our beloved Foundress. We had all seen a gradual weakening in Sister, to be expected in her nineties! As the novices continued to see to her daily needs as her “angels,” one prayed in particular to witness a preparatory grace before her death. The Novice’s prayer was answered when, on the morning of January 10th, she went into Sr. Wilhelmina’s cell to find her smiling radiantly with “a very pure and innocent expression.” “Jesus, Jesus! He is the Good Shepherd. He wants everyone to go to heaven! He says everyone is supposed to go to heaven!” When asked if she had seen the Lord, she answered, “Yes, I saw Jesus! Everyone in the world, everyone should go to heaven.

Heaven, heaven, I want to go to heaven!” She then turned her eyes to the crucifix, and to the Novice’s query, said “Yes, I look at the cross. We should meditate every day on the cross, every single day... He wants everyone to go to heaven, Oh, how I want to go to heaven! It is the right thing to do, you should embrace your cross,” and on consoling Our Lord: “That is right, it is like entering into eternity...I want to thank God and praise Him for what He has done for me, I want to thank him for what he has done for you and I want to thank Him for all He has done for all my Sisters.” A few days later, the thought returned and as she was gazing at the cross, said “I’m thinking how Our Lord suffered for us on this cross! I want to pray for the dying! Do you know when I will go to heaven?

When will I go to heaven? I really want to go to heaven!” (As found at: In Loving Memory of Our Foundress, Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster.)

This was a life without guile, a life of humility, and of a profound love for Our Lord, Our Lady, and the Catholic Faith.

The Sisters of the Benedictine Abbey who cared for their foundress provided an account of her final days in 2019 around the time of the feast of her favorite saint, Saint Bede the Venerable, who himself had died after First Vespers on the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord in the year 735:

Sister Wilhelmina had been sleeping more and more during the spring months. She became completely unresponsive in the afternoon of May 26th, only the second day she was unable to get out of bed in all of her elderly years. Her last ‘meal’ was her favorite - a couple spoons of homemade vanilla ice cream. Sister received the Last Rites in the morning before our Mass. Her nurse came that evening to do a thorough checkup, and her conclusion was that Sister had no more than 24 hours to live. Sisters stayed at her bedside that night in turns, beginning the prayers for the dying.

On Monday, Sister received not only the Apostolic Blessing, but also first blessings from two newly ordained priests. During the conventual Mass, Mother Abbess stayed with her, and just as the bells for the consecration rang, Sister outstretched both of her arms and moaned deeply, just as if she were sharing in her frail body the Sacrifice of Our Lord on the Cross, taking place in the Abbey church just across the courtyard from her room. The Sisters from Ava returned later that day, and not one Sister wanted to leave her bedside. We recited Matins all together in her room at 11pm. There were at least five orsix Sisters praying next to her all night, with many others dozing off right in the room or nearby in the hallway outside. Sister made it through the night, though her breathing was becoming more labored.

On Tuesday morning, one of the newly ordained priests, Fr. Daniel Powers, fssp, offered Mass in her room - only the fourth Mass of his priesthood! She continued to be unresponsive until after the conventual Mass, when all the Sisters packed into her cell once again, and began singing all of her favorite hymns. Though she did not open her eyes, she was clearly hearing us, and even did her best to join in at certain points. Her nurse was later astounded to know of her responsiveness and ability to sing as her blood pressure and oxygen levels would seem to preclude that kind of exertion. Sister’s final words were uttered - or sung rather - at “O Maria” during one of her favorite hymns: “Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above.” A few minutes later, as we sang “Had I but Mary’s sinless heart to love Thee with, my dearest King; Oh with what bursts of fervent praise, Thy goodness Jesus, would I sing.” from Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All, her face changed drastically, lighting up with a truly heavenly smile for about 10 seconds, as though she were granted a vision of the eternity awaiting her, where she will be singing His praises forever. After about a half hour of singing, Sister returned to her unresponsive state, and so would remain until the next day.

The next morning, the community gathered after the morning offices, and prayed the Rosary. Our chaplain and Fr. Powers also came for a time to recite the prayers for the dying over her. Because of her extremely labored breathing and low oxygen and blood pressure, we thought she would slip away that morning. Little did any of us know that she was waiting to pass from this life in the way of her beloved St. Bede.

Sister Wilhelmina once was asked who was her favorite Benedictine saint. To the Sister’s surprise, she replied, “St. Bede the Venerable, of course! I became a Benedictine on his feast you know.” Indeed on his feast, May 27th, 1995, she came to Elmhurst, PA to begin the order, and this is celebrated as the founding day of our community.

At first, the Sisters (and the nurse) thought that Sr. Wilhelmina might take her leave on the calendar date of St. Bede’s feast, May 27th. But the liturgical feast when he died was Rogation Wednesday, Vigil of the Ascension, when he expired peacefully as the evening Offices were being completed. He was then reckoned to have died on the Ascension, since First Vespers of the feast had been chanted, and it was an hour after sunset. Following not only in her beloved saint’s footsteps in the love of the Divine Office and our Blessed Lady, our dear Sr. Wilhelmina followed him even in her manner of death.

On May 29th, just after a Sister brought the Pilgrim Virgin statue from Fatima into her room, the inspiration came to dress Sr. Wilhelmina in the habit once again as best as we could, remembering her wish to die in it. We realized later the uncanny parallel to the time she had reassumed it in 1974, when the Pilgrim statue came to the Oblate Sisters.

The feast of the Ascension had begun with First Vespers, and the whole community assembled at 7:00 pm in Sister’s cell while Mother Abbess read to Sister Wilhelmina and all of us the various notes of assurance of prayers, along with prayer requests from family and friends. At this time Sister was not actively conscious, though it cannot be doubted that she indeed was taking all to heart as she lay clutching her profession crucifix and her well-used rosary. It was a very joyful time for the whole community, and all were at ease in Sister’s cell in a way we had not been for several days of waiting and watching.

Sr. Wilhelmina’s final year has seen the fulfillment of many dreams, with the Abbatial blessing, the construction and Consecration of the Abbey Church, her Diamond Jubilee and 95th birthday, an increase in vocations “particularly those of her own race” for whom she always prayed, and the sending off of our first foundation.

Mysteriously, she promised to accompany our Ava Sisters, and her prophecy is now understood.

After singing some more of her favorite Marian hymns, the community chanted Compline in her cell. At the close of Compline, there is an ancient custom to receive a blessing with holy water for the night from the superior. Mother Abbess intoned the customary antiphon: Vidi aquam egredientem de templo, a latere dextro, alleluia: Et omnes ad quos pervenit aqua ista, salvi facti sunt, et dicent: alleluia, alleluia. (I saw water flowing out of the Temple, from its right side, Alleluia: And all who came to this water were saved, And they shall say: Alleluia, Alleluia.)

As the Sisters continued the antiphon, Mother Abbess froze. There were several moments we had feared this might be the last, but at this particular moment, Mother Abbess’ eyes were fixed upon Sr. Wilhelmina, who had suddenly taken on an air of profound peace.

Intuitively, after Mother Abbess blessed herself with holy water, she sprinkled Sr. Wilhelmina’s head, then again copiously, signing a cross on her head with her thumb in the water, “as if she were baptizing her again,” as one Sister commented. Mother Abbess gently stroked her cheeks, and as she withdrew her hand (but not her gaze) to continue blessing the remainder of the community, Sister Wilhelmina breathed her last, peacefully and without a struggle.

The timing lined up exactly with the antiphon, as she received holy water from the right hand of her successor who was blessed as the community’s first Abbess less than nine months before, whom Sr. Wilhelmina ardently venerated as Christ Himself. Sister received the water from the temple of the Lord’s side, which was symbolized by the Abbey church, and she died in the shadow of this edifice likewise consecrated less than nine months before. She had consummated her vows which were a “second Baptism,” and took her flight to commemorate her first Baptism, the anniversary of which was the very next day - May 30th of 1924. The community sang the Mass of the Ascension the following day. It was through the veil of this life that she was able to complete the antiphon and testify to the water through which she and the saints of Christ are saved, to sing “Alleluia” to her Bridegroom forever.

Spontaneously, Mother Abbess knelt at Sr. Wilhelmina’s side after blessing the Sisters, and all the Sisters instinctively knelt also as Mother Abbess gently said “She’s gone.”

Mother Abbess began to weep and said “Oh, Sister, Sister, pray for us,” as she kissed the limp hand, and in an eloquent gesture, took Sr. Wilhelmina’s thumb to trace the sign of the cross upon her own forehead, receiving the blessing of her predecessor and foundress even as Sr. Wilhelmina had not departed without receiving the blessing of her new Mother Abbess.

  Fr. Devillers encouraged all of us to follow our foundress to her new foundation in heaven.

As we buried our treasure, our tears fell into Sr. Wilhelmina’s grave, which the Sisters had dug by hand.

Mother Abbess wept again, and overwhelmed with gratitude that it was given to us to witness such a grace, cried out, “How much God loves us! How much He loves our community!” Our Lord could not have chosen a more fitting nor consoling moment to withdraw the treasure of our community back to Himself. The Sisters also wept, but as all testified, the tears were more of joy than of grief. Our loving Lord had seen to it that the entire community be present to witness the holy death of our foundress, after completing the final Office of the day, and the final Office of Sister Wilhelmina’s long and venerable life.

The Subvenite - the traditional prayer for a deceased community member was then chanted, as the church bell tolled 95 times. Sister was then crowned with flowers and clothed with her cuculla, her Solemn Profession chart placed at her feet. Sisters then took turns keeping watch by the hour as Sister lay in state in the Chapter house. They consecutively prayed the psalms for the dead until Friday morning, when a sunbeam poured in and robed Sister in glory, leaving the shadow of a crucifix at her feet.

Sisters remarked on the beauty Sister Wilhelmina took on, as she seemed to smile more and more until the coffin (made by Fr. Joseph Terra, fssp) was closed and her beautiful face could no longer be seen.

Father Arnaud Devillers, who had founded the order with Sr. Wilhelmina in 1995, offered the funeral Mass.

Following the Mass, he remarked that out of the many Sisters he had met, he had full confidence in Sister Wilhelmina’s genuineness because of her humility. It was upon that foundation that a new community has arisen for the glory of God.

Many years ago, our first chaplain asked Sister Wilhelmina “why did you become a religious?” Her instantaneous reply was: “because I was in love with Our Lord.” It could be easily said even in her declining years that she never fell out of love with Him.

Let us unite in loving prayers that the love she bore for her Divine Bridegroom likewise bears her directly to His embrace. God willing, we will be collecting Sister’s life and works in a larger volume in the near future! May

God reward you all for your kindness, condolences and prayers. (As found at: In Loving Memory of Our Foundress, Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster.)

The sorrow that the Sisters experienced at the death of their beloved foundress had been tempered by the knowledge that the ninety-five year-old woman who had been born as Mary Elizabeth Lancaster to zealous Catholic parents had dedicated seventy-five years of her life to the service of their mystical Spouse, Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that knowledge was later rewarded with shrieks of joy they, who dug Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster’s grave by hand, dug up her body on April 28, 2023:


Her flashlight was dim, so when Mother Abbess Cecilia Snell first peered inside the cracked coffin lid and saw a human foot inside a black sock where one would expect to find only bone and dust, she didn’t say anything.

Instead, she took a step back, collected herself, and leaned in for another look, just to be sure. Then she screamed for joy.

“I will never forget that scream for as long as I live,” recalled Sister Scholastica Radel, the prioress, who was among the members of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, who were present to exhume the remains of their foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster.

“It was a very different scream than any other scream,” the abbess agreed. “Nothing like seeing a mouse or something. It was just pure joy. ‘I see her foot!’”

What the sisters discovered that day would cause a worldwide sensation: Roughly four years after her burial in a simple wooden coffin, Sister Wilhelmina’s unembalmed body appeared very much intact.

In an exclusive TV interview with EWTN News In Depth, the two sisters shared details of their remarkable discovery — revealing, among other things, that Sister Wilhelmina’s body doesn’t exhibit the muscular stiffness of rigor mortis — and reflected on the deeper significance of the drama still unfolding at their Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in rural Gower, Missouri.

They also clarified that Sister Wilhelmina’s coffin was exhumed on April 28, nearly three weeks earlier than CNA had understood. The sisters explained that it took about two weeks to remove dirt, mold, and mildew before they moved her body to the church. You can hear excerpts from the interview and other commentaries in the video at the end of this story.

Of particular significance to the members of the contemplative order, known for their popular recordings of Gregorian chants and devotion to the Traditional Latin Mass, is that the traditional habit of their African American foundress also is surprisingly well-preserved.

It’s in better condition than most of our habits,” Mother Cecilia told EWTN’s Catherine Hadro.

“This is not possible. Four years in a wet coffin, broken in with all the dirt, all the bacteria, all the mildew, all the mold — completely intact, every thread.”

For the sisters, the symbolism is profound. A St. Louis native, Sister Wilhelmina spent 50 years in another religious order but left after it dispensed with the requirement of wearing its conventional habit and altered other long-established practices. She founded the Benedictines of Mary in 1995 when she was 70 years old.

“It’s so appropriate, because that’s what Sister Wilhelmina fought for her whole religious life,” Mother Cecilia said of the habit.

And now,” Sister Scholastica said, “that’s what’s standing out. That’s what she took on to show the world that she belonged to Christ, and that is what she still shows the world. Even in her state, even after death, four years after the death, she’s still showing the world that this is who she is. She’s a bride of Christ, and nothing else matters.”

‘I did a double take’

The Benedictine community exhumed Sister Wilhelmina after deciding to move her remains to a new St. Joseph’s Shrine inside the abbey’s church, a common custom to honor the founders of religious orders, the sisters said.

Members of the community did the digging themselves, “a little bit each day,” Mother Cecilia said. The process began on April 26 and culminated with a half-dozen or so sisters using straps to haul the coffin out of the ground on April 28.

The abbess revealed that there was a feeling of anticipation among the sisters to see what was inside the coffin.

“There was a sense that maybe God would do something special because she was so special and so pure of heart,” Mother Cecilia said.

It was the abbess who looked through the cracked lid first, shining her flashlight into the dark coffin.

“So I looked and I kind of did a double take and I kind of stepped back. ‘Did I just see what I think I saw? Because I think I just saw a completely full foot with a black sock still on it,’” she recalled saying to herself.

Sister Wilhelmina’s features were clearly recognizable; even her eyebrows and eyelashes were still there, the sisters discovered. Not only that, but her Hanes-brand socks, her brown scapular, Miraculous Medal, rosary beads, profession candle, and the ribbon around the candle — none of it had deteriorated.

The crown of flowers placed on her head for her burial had survived, too, dried in place but still visible. Yet the coffin’s fabric lining, the sisters noted, had disintegrated. So had a strap of new linen the sisters said they used to keep Sister Wilhelmina’s mouth closed. (Sister Wilhelmina’s nuns describe finding her body in exclusive interview.)

Everything about Sister Wilhelmina’s life had been preserved, but everything about her death had disintegrated. Anyone who can dismiss this as inconsequential is not thinking clearly. God works where He will, and He willed to work through the life of Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster, up to and including preserving not only most of her body from corruption but the traditional habit that was the symbol of her espousal to Our Lord as His bride that the conciliar authorities, who loathe the contemplative life, have long sought to eradicate and consign to the proverbial dustbin of history.

Yet it is that it is conciliarism’s sterility that is consigning it to the dustbin of history as the numbers of consecrated religious women have fallen so dramatically in the past sixty years that the New York chapter of Saint Vincent de Paul’s Sisters of Charity, who abandoned their habits long ago, have voted to accept no new novices, not they have had any lately, and to, in effect just die off:

In 1968, a brief article by Karl Rahner, S.J., entitled “The Theology of Risk,” appeared in The Furrow, the Irish theological journal. Reflecting on the rapid societal changes being confronted by the church in the world, Rahner posed the mandate of risk as the more courageous way forward. Risk, he suggested, “means relinquishing old, tried ways and risking untried paths, where the future historical outcome cannot be adequately foreseen…. Security lies today no longer in the past, but in the future.”

Fifty-five years later, the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of New York have chosen to embrace that theology of risk. In early April, five sets of double doors to a hotel ballroom were quietly closed. Sisters and Associates made their way to tables, knowing that the issue of vocations was next on the agenda at the congregation’s 2023 General Assembly. They listened to the report of predictable data: fewer members, a rising median age, a long-standing absence of viable inquirers. Then, the recommendation from the Executive Council called the question. The room became a sea of color as 4-by-6-inch pieces of bright green construction paper were lifted high, wobbling in the air as the delegates’ arms trembled. The wait seemed interminable as the eyes of tellers scanned the room. These cards were ballots, Green signaling affirmation. The final tally? Unanimous! The delegates had just voted to stop accepting new members to the Sisters of Charity of New York in the United States. The air was still. The silence felt like a cloak enfolding the room. There was more to come.

The president, Sister Donna Dodge, took the podium again and with loving resolve proclaimed the second recommendation of the Executive Council. It would require another vote. “The council recommends and asks the Assembly to affirm that we, Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul of New York, will continue to live our mission to the fullest, while acknowledging that we are on a path to completion.” The silence deepened. As their facilitator, I called for the slide that appeared on huge screens bookending the stage. The text of the resolution appeared on the screens, along with the congregation’s logo. The last word hung in the room: completion. (Nerves, tears and chanting: What I saw during the New York Sisters of Charity vote to stop accepting members.)

Karl Rahner’s “theology of risk” that relinquished “old, tired ways” was and remains the path to extinction. Theological heresy and liturgical sterility have led to the self-immolation of one religious community after another within the structures of the counterfeit church of conciliarism.

Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster’s fidelity to those supposedly “old, tired ways” is what has led to the fruitfulness of her new community even though they, without realizing it to be the case, lack the true Sacraments, but have an abiding devotion to the Mother of God. Those who abandon Our Lady abandon their salvation, and religious communities who ignore Our Lady or who blaspheme her as a feminist become slaves of the devil, who is more than happy to preside over their own fruitless and extinction.

As noted in the Sisters’ 2019 account of their foundress’s death, she founded the Benedictine community on the Feast of Saint Bede, May 27, 1995, and she died as her beloved Venerable Bede had died, after First Vespers for the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. It is important, as least as far as I believe, to recount something about the life of Saint Bede to demonstrate how he assisted Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster to remain strong in the Faith to the point of leaving the community in which she had lived for half a century to found a new one that would preserve the traditional religious life as far as is possible within the conciliar structures:

The blessing given by Our Lord as he ascended not heaven has revealed its power in the most distant pagan lands, and during these days in the liturgical cycle bears witness to a concentration of graces upon the west of Europe.

The band of missionaries begged of Pope Eleutherius by the British king Lucius has been followed by the apostolate of Augustine, the envoy of Gregory the Great, and to-day, as though impatient to justify the lavish generosity of heaven, England brings forward her illustrious son, the Venerable Bede. This humble monk, whose life was spent in the praise of God, sought his divine Master in nature and in history, but above all in holy Scripture, which he studied with a loving attention and fidelity to tradition. He who was ever a disciple of the ancients, takes his place to-day among his masters as a Father and Doctor of the Church.

He thus sums up his own life: ‘I am priest of the monastery of the Apostles Peter and Paul. I was born on their land, and ever since my seventh year I have always lived in the house, observing the Rule, singing day by day in their church, and making it my delight to learn to teach or to write. Since I was made a priest, I have written commentaries on the holy Scripture for myself and my brethren, using the words of our venerated Fathers and following their method of interpretation. And, now, good Jesus, I beseech thee, thou who has given me in thy mercy to drink of the sweetness of thy word, grant me now to attain to the source, the fount of wisdom, and to gaze upon thee for ever and ever.’

The holy death of the servant of God was one of the most precious lessons he ever left to his disciples. His last sickness lasted fifty days, and he spent them, like the rest of his life, in singing the psalms and in teaching. As the Feast of the Ascension drew near, he repeated over and over again with tears of joy the Antiphon: ‘O king of glory, who has ascended triumphantly above the heavens, leave us not orphans, but send us the promise of the Father, the Spirit of truth.’ He said to his disciples in the words of St. Ambrose: ‘I have not lived in such a sort a to be ashamed to live with you, but I am not afraid to die, for we have a good Master.’ Then, returning to his translation of the Gospel of St. John and a work, which he had begun, on St. Isidore, he would say: ‘I do not wish my disciples to be hindered after my death by error nor to lose the fruit of their studies.’

On Tuesday before the Ascension he grew worse, and it was evident that the end was near. He was full of joy and spent the day in dictating and the night in prayers of thanksgiving. The dawn of Wednesday morning found him urging his disciples to hurry on their work. At the hour of Terce they left him to take part in the procession made on that day with the relics of the saints. One of them, a child, who stayed with him, said: ‘Dear master, there is but one chapter left; hast thou strength for it?’ ‘It is easy,’ he answered with a smile: ‘take thy pen, cut it and write—but make haste.’ At the hour of None, he sent for the priests of the monastery and gave them little presents, begging them to remember him at the altar. All wept. But he was full of joy, saying: ‘It is time for me, if it so please my Creator, to return to him who made me out of nothing, when as yet I was not. My sweet Judge has well ordered my life, and now the time of dissolution is at hand. I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ. Yea, my soul longs to see Christ my king in his beauty.’

So did he pass this last day. Then came the touching dialogue with Wilbert, the child mentioned above: ‘Dear master, there is yet one sentence more.’ ‘Write quickly.’ After a moment: ‘It is finished,’ said the child. ‘Thou sayest well,’ replied the blessed man. ‘It is finished. Take my head in thy hands and support me over against the Oratory, for it is a great joy to me to see myself against that holy place where I have so often prayed.’ They had laid him on the floor his cell. He said: ‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,’ and when he had named the Holy Ghost, he yielded up his soul.

The following account of this holy monk is given in the Breviary. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year: Volume 8—Paschal Time, Book II, pp. 613-615.)

Bede, a priest, was born at Jarrow, on the borders of England and Scotland. At the age of seven years he was placed under the care of holy Benedict Biscop, Abbot of Wearmouth, to be educated. Thereafter he became a monk, and so ordered his life that, whilst he should devote himself wholly to the study of the sciences and of doctrine, he might in nothing relax the discipline of his Order. There was no branch of learning in which he was not most thoroughly versed, but his chief care was the study of Holy Scriptures; and that he might the better understand them he acquired a knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew tongues. When he was thirty years of age he was ordained priest at the command of his Abbot, and immediately, on the advice of Acca, Bishop of Hexham, undertook the work of expounding the Sacred Books. In his interpretations he so strictly adhered to the teaching of the holy Fathers that he would advance nothing which was not approved by their judgment, nay, had the warrant of their very words. He ever hated sloth, and by habitually passing from reading to prayer, and in turn from prayer to reading, he so inflamed his soul that often amid his reading and teaching he was bathed in tears. Lest also his mind should be distracted by the cares of transitory things, he never would take the office of Abbot when it was offered to him.

The name of Bede soon became so famous for learning and piety that St. Sergius the Pope thought of calling him to Rome, where, certainly, he might have helped to solve the very difficult questions which had then arisen concerning sacred things. He wrote many books for the bettering of the lives of the faithful, and defending and extending of the faith. By those he gained everywhere such a reputation that the holy martyr Bishop Boniface styled him a Light of the Church; Lanfranc called him The Teacher of the English, and the Council of Aix-la-Chapelle The Admirable Doctor. But as his writings were publicly read in the churches during his life, and as it was not allowable to call him already a saint, they named him The Venerable, a title which in all times after has remained peculiarly his. The power of his teaching was the greater also, in that it was attested by a holy life and the graces of religious observance. In this way, by his earnestness and example, his disciples, who were many and distinguished, were made eminent, not only in letters and the sciences, but in personal holiness.

Broken at length by age and labour, he was seized by a grievous illness. Though he suffered under it for more than seven weeks, he ceased not from his prayers and his interpreting of the Scriptures; for at that time he was turning the Gospel of John into English for the use of his people. But when, on the Eve of the Ascension, he perceived that death was coming upon him, he desired to be fortified with the last sacraments of the Church: then, after he had embraced his companions, and was laid on a piece of sackcloth on the ground, he repeated the words, Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, and fell asleep in the Lord. His body, very sweet, as it is related, breathing sweet odour, was buried in the monastery of Jarrow, and afterwards was translated to Durham with the relics of St. Cuthbert. Bede, who was already a Doctor among the Benedictines, and in other religious Orders, and venerated in certain dioceses, was declared by Pope Leo XIII., after consulting with the Congregation of Sacred Rites, to be a Doctor of the universal Church; and the Mass and Office for Doctors was ordered to be recited by all on his feast-day. (Matins, Divine Office, Feast of Saint Bede the Venerable.)

Once again, Dom Prosper Gueranger, mindful of the forces at work in the world in the middle of the Nineteenth Century, took pen to paper to connect the life of Saint Bede the Venerable to the events of his own day that are even more pronounced in our own:

‘Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost’ is the hymn of eternity. Before the creation of angels and of man, God, in the concert of the three divine Persons, sufficed for his own praise, and of this praise was adequate, infinite and perfect, like the divinity. This was only praise worthy of God. However magnificently the world may hymn its Creator n the thousand voices of nature, its praise is always below the divine Object. But, in the designs of God, creation was on day to send up to heaven an echo of that melody which is threefold and yet one, for the Word was to take flesh, through the operation of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of Mary, and was to be Son of creation fully and perfectly re-echoed the adorable harmonies once known only to the blessed Trinity. Since that day a man who has understanding finds his perfection in such conformity to the Son of Mary, that he may be one with the Son of God in the divine concert wherein God is glorified.

This, O Bede, was thy life, for understanding was given thee. It was fitting that thy last breath should be spent in that song of long which had filled thy mortal life, and that thus thou shouldst be spent in that song of love which had filled thy mortal life, and that thus shouldst enter at once into a glorious and blessed eternity. May we profit by that supreme lesson, which thus sums up all the teaching of thy grand and simple life!

Glory be to the almighty and merciful Trinity! These words form the close of the cycle of the mysteries which terminate at this time in the glorification of the Father, our sovereign Lord, by the triumph of the Son our Redeemer, and the inauguration of the reign of the Holy Ghost, our sanctifier. How splendid were the triumph of the Son and the reign of the Holy Ghost in the Isle of Saints in the days when Albion, twice given by Rome to Christ, shone like a priceless jewel in the diadem of the Spouse! O thou were wast the teacher of the English in the days of their fidelity, do not disappoint the hopes of the Supreme Pontiff, who has in our days extended thy cult to the Universal Church; but rekindle in the hearts of thy countrymen their former love for the Mother of all mankind. (Dom Prosper Gueranger, O.S.B., The Liturgical Year: Volume 8—Paschal Time, Book II, pp. 617-618.)

We could spend a lifetime reading and meditating upon the works of Saint Bede the Venerable, but of particular note to us should be his devotion to Our Lady and his defense of the dating of Easter that Jorge Mario Bergoglio believes can be “fixed,” placing the latter in full league the heretics Saint Bede himself combatted as described by Saint Cuthbert:

“With those who have wandered form the unity of the Catholic faith, either through not celebrating Easter at the proper time or through evil living, you are to have no dealings. Never forget that if you should ever be forced to make the choice of two evils I would prefer that you left the island, taking my bones with you, than you should be a party to wickedness on any pretext whatsoever, bending your necks to the yoke of schism. Strive most diligently to learn the catholic statutes of the fathers and put them into practice. Make it your special care to carry out those rules of the monastic life which God in His divine mercy has seen fit to give you through my ministry. I know that, though some may see that my teachings are not to be easily dismissed.” (Saint Cuthbert, as quoted by The Venerable Bede, The Life of Cuthbert. The Age of Bede, translated by J. F. Webb and edited with an introduction by D. H. Farmer, Penguin Books, published in 1965 and reprinted with revisions in 1988 and 1998, p. 95.) 

There are parallels between Saint Bede’s commitment to maintain the rules of monastic life and the efforts of Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster to restore traditional religious life after nearly thirty years of a “reform and renewal” that she went along with for a short time before returning to the traditional habit and praying for the day when she would be able to life the Catholic religious life once again. Saint Bede lived a simple life, and so did Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster.

Even a Protestant author, a man named John Allen Giles, who lived in the Nineteenth Century, recognized that it was important for the English to recapture Saint Bede’s love of the truth, which itself is remarkable given the fact that Protestant England has decayed from the time of Henry VIII’s revolt in 1534 to a land that has become almost entirely pagan, save for a few Catholics here and there who are praying to Our Lady of Walsingham for the restoration of Catholic England:

In future ages, when that which is now passing in the world shall have become the subject of history, it will be recorded of the present generation that amid convulsions in our social system and political changes affecting the very existence of the government, there has sprung up amongst us a veneration for ancient institutions altogether unexpected and unexplained. This feeling has above all extended itself to the revival of our early authors in every branch of learning and science. The literature of the dark ages, as they have been contemptuously called, that had slept almost the sleep of death, on the mouldering shelves of overgrown libraries, has been again brought to the light of day within half a century of the time when it was boldly pronounced that nothing in politics or in religion would live or deserve to live which had the taint of antiquity about it: a powerful current of thought and action has been carrying the world back to the ocean of the past: and the Fathers of the Church, and the chroniclers of the cloister, have become the study of those who wish to imbibe at the fountain-head the faith and the acts of the olden time. (John Allen Giles, ed., The Complete Works of Venerable Bede in the Original Latin, London, Whitaker, and Co. Ave Maria Lane, 1843.)

A Protestant in the Nineteenth Century yearned for England to recapture its Catholic traditions, something that cannot be done within the Anglican sect, whose own doctrinal heresy and liturgical sterility has led to its irrelevance in the life of England today.

Numerous Catholics in the Twenty-first Century yearn for a return to Catholic traditions without realizing that this cannot be done in the conciliar sect, which is why we must pray for the holy life and joyful example of Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster will inspire these good Catholics to discover the true Sacraments and to suffer the consequences just as Sister Wilhelmina herself suffered to maintain traditions in what she thought was the Catholic Church but was and is in fact her counterfeit ape.

In the meantime, though, we must maintain ourselves in charity with our fellow Catholics, yes, especially with those who think that we are schismatic, disloyal, and possibly even “heretical.” Our patient endurance of their scorn, ridicule, and even ostracism may win the day for these good people if only we have Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster’s serene joy of being Catholic and her great love of Saint Louis de Montfort’s True Devotion to Our Lady as we pray as many Rosaries each day as our state-in-life permits.

Let us never despair why certain of our friends and relatives “see” things and others don’t.

A true priest, who is now ninety-one years of age told a non-sedevacantist friend of ours years ago, "There will be saints on every side of this issue.”


Our Lady, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us all to be as pure and joyful and Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster, who has much to teach us about peservering joy and charity in these times when the conciliar revolutionaries have pitted believing Catholics one against the other. 

Our Lady of the Rosary, pray for us.

Saint Joseph, pray for us.

Saints Peter and Paul, pray for us.

Saint John the Baptist, pray for us.

Saint John the Evangelist, pray for us.

Saint Michael the Archangel, pray for us.

Saint Gabriel the Archangel, pray for us.

Saint Raphael the Archangel, pray for us.

Saints Joachim and Anne, pray for us.

Saints Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, pray for us.