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Gower, Missouri: Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus

About the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles:

Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, OSB
Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, OSB

In 1995, at age 70, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, OSB, left the community of the Oblate Sisters of Providence (where she had been a member for over 50 years) and founded the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles with Fr. Arnaud Devillers in the Diocese of Scranton in Pennsylvania .

The Benedictines of Mary is an order of Catholic Cloistered Nuns that follow the rule of St. Benedict, which focuses on prayer and work (Ora et Labora). Their days are spent in prayer and maintenance of their community.  The order devotes approximately five hours a day to the chanting of the Mass (their music recordings have become best sellers) and Divine Office. The sisters’ remaining time is spent doing manual labor (such as sewing vestments for priests all over the world, gardening, cooking, cleaning, farm work and other duties), mental prayer, and prayerful reading. The order is primarily contemplative.

In 2006, the community accepted an invitation from Bishop Robert Finn to transfer to his Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri. In 2010, the sisters moved to Gower, Missouri. Sister Wilhelmina was the order’s first Prioress.

Fellow sisters digging the grave of Mother Wilhelmina LancasterShe died at age 95 on May 29, 2019, on the solemnity of the Ascension.

Sister Wilhelmina’s funeral was held Friday, May 31 at the monastery.

Burial was at the monastery graveyard. The nuns both dug and filled her grave by hand.



Funeral of st wilhemina, foundress of the Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles in Ava Missouri
Sisters gather around the coffin at the funeral of Sister Wilhemina (photo courtesy Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of the Apostles)

Roughly four years later, on the solemnity of the Ascension in the Latin rite, the abbess and sisters decided to move her body to a final resting place inside their monastery chapel, as is customary for founders and foundresses of orders.  When her coffin was unearthed and opened, the Benedictine Sisters found an apparently intact body.  This was remarkable in view of the fact that the body had not been embalmed and the wooden coffin had a crack down the middle that let in moisture and dirt for an unknown length of time during those four years.  If found to be incorrupt, she would be the first African-American to be so.

But let us not jump to conclusions….no definitive judgment has been made yet…..and the story of her life and work on this earth are far more important than the state of her body in our opinion.  Here is the latest statement by the Diocese.

Since their founding, the community has been a witness of hope for the Church, attracting many young and zealous vocations. Shortly after the elevation of the Motherhouse in Gower, Missouri to an Abbey, the Sisters experienced such expansive growth, that it became necessary to branch out.

With the invitation of Bishop Edward Rice, of the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, eight Sisters followed the call of the Lord to southern Missouri, to expand their order and mission.  They now have a daughter house in Ava, Missouri, near the final home of Pioneer author Laura Ingalls Wilder, 32 miles north of the Arkansas border.

About the Abbey of Ephesus in Gower, Missouri:

As young women have continued to knock on their door, a logistical crisis has followed. It was necessary to take on the construction of a permanent monastery and church in the Ozark Highlands. A beautiful 250 acre parcel was purchased outside of in 2021 to begin the process in an ideal place for a new house of God.

The purpose of a monastery is to create a space where God is loved and adored in an ordered life of peace, manifested especially in monastic silence and the world-renown Gregorian Chants, sung in their ancient splendor each day. Everyone is welcome to visit the monastery, attend the prayers, and experience an other-worldly peace, a peace which can then be brought back into the world, diffusing light and hope to many.

Be sure to visit their gift shop where you can purchase greeting cards, books and award-winning music.  Several of their videos have been best sellers.

Check out their newsletter.….you will find it very interesting…they have been battling mold sickness, of all things!

And here is a video that is interesting as well.


Traveling to the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in Gower, Missouri:

Gower is located about 35 miles southwest of Saint Joseph, Missouri.  They have asked that their phone number not be added to our page at this time….as you can imagine, they are probably overwhelmed with calls relating to the body of Sister Wilhelmina.

Address:  8005 NW 316th, Gower, MO 64454

Click here for the official website of The Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles


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