Column – Sister Wilhelmina forms new order in Missouri

Published 4:42 pm Tuesday, July 11, 2023

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Part two in a series of three

Sister Mary Wilhelmina Lancaster was born Mary Elizabeth Lancaster on Palm Sunday, April 13, 1924. At age nine, she had a vision of Jesus who wanted her to be his. She was “in love with our Lord.” She graduated valedictorian in a Catholic school established by her parents. 

At 13, she had wanted to enter a convent and joined the Oblate Sisters of Providence. She began her formation as a sister in 1941. She took the name “Wilhelmina” when she took her vows, in honor of her pastor, Fr. William Markoe, Society of Jesus, who encouraged her to pursue her vocation. 

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As a nun of the Oblates of Providence, she dedicated most of her life teaching inner city youth and advocating civil rights in different Catholic schools in different archdioceses of Baltimore, Washington, Charleston, St. Louis, Philadelphia and Miami. 

After 50 years with the Oblate Sisters of Providence, she left her community to found a new order, in 1995, the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles. Her new community moved to the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in 2006. Four years later, her order moved to Gower, Missouri. Sr. Wilhelmina, Oblate Sisters of St. Benedict, became the first “Prioress” or superior. 

When she died May 29, 2019 at age 95, her body was not embalmed. In a simple wooden coffin, she was buried two days later in the monastery’s graveyard. 

On Aug. 15, 2020, a biographical book, “God’s Will: The Life and Works of Sr. Mary Wilhelmina, Foundress of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles,” was published by her order. As the book’s title suggests, it features the life story of Sr. Mary Wilhemina and her love for poetry. 

In one of her poems in the book, you read: “Home is where you drink and sleep and eat; Home is where you pray and God’s orders keep; Where you live united in love! Where you look to Heaven high above!”

In another poem she wrote, “Honor St. Joseph’s Fidelity to grace! That you may come to see at last God’s face…Honor St. Joseph’s Love for Mary! That to God’s Will you never be contrary. Honor St. Joseph’s Love for the Holy Child! That you pass through life Pure and undefiled!”

On April 28, the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, decided to exhume the body of their foundress, Sister Wilhelmina, to transfer it to a new shrine altar honoring St. Joseph, the patron saint of the universal church. Four years after her death, they found that her exhumed remains were intact. In short, this nun’s miraculous body was incorrupt. That is, it didn’t rot or decompose, as if she’s only sleeping!.

The Diocese of Kansas City, St. Joseph, Missouri has issued a statement on May 22, saying that Sister Wilhelmina’s remains “has understandably generated widespread interest and raised important questions.”


-Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk and Chesapeake. Email him at