Column – Will Sister Wilhelmina become a Catholic saint?

Published 4:57 pm Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Part three in a series of three

As “pilgrims,” both Catholic and non-Catholics, continue to flock and see this mystical or miraculous “incorrupt” body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, that has been on display for weeks, encased in glass at the altar shrine, at the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, investigations by the Catholic Church are ongoing. 

Like a local mortician who saw the remains intact, these pilgrims from different states were all in awe and disbelief to see for themselves the incorruptible body of Sister Wilhelmina. They prayed for her intercession. 

Email newsletter signup

Will the Vatican declare her a saint someday? That’s the question we all anticipate. Let’s wait and see.

Jenna Marie Cooper of “Our Sunday Visitor News” explained that a saint is “incorrupt” when, years after their death, their mortal body is found to have remained in an unexplained state of preservation. That is, their body has not followed the expected natural process of decomposition. 

Cooper, a licentiate in canon law and an OSV weekly columnist, wrote that for a saint to be considered incorrupt, their body must not have been subjected to any deliberate artificial embalming process. Sister Wlhelmina’s body was not embalmed before her burial, which was two days after her death, according to Benedictine Sisters.

“It’s true that part of the canonization process involves exhuming the body of the proposed saint (essentially as a way of verifying their identity), but in the canonization process, the state of the person’s mortal remains is of minimal relevance,” she wrote.

Other factors for the church to declare someone a saint include miracles attributed to the proposed saint and how the proposed saint has lived her/his life, i.e, did she live a life of holiness and heroic Christian virtue?

Cooper further said that when a deceased member of the faithful is found to be incorrupt, this can serve as a strong reminder to us of our belief in the “resurrection of the body,” which we profess when we pray the Apostles Creed.

She quoted lines from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 997, which states: “In death, the separation of the soul from the body, the human body decays and the soul goes to meet God, while awaiting its reunion with the glorified body. God, in his almighty power, will definitely grant incorruptible life to our bodies by reuniting them with our souls, through the power of Jesus’ Resurrection.”

Having a deep faith in God, in anything we do for others, when we pray, we can ask for the intercession of Sister Wilhelmina, OSB, a saint in the making, worthy of veneration?


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