Browsing News Entries

Sister Wilhelmina’s body placed in glass case after solemn rosary procession

Religious sisters of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, sing as the process with the body of their late foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, on May 29, 2023, at their abbey near Gower, Missouri. The sisters exhumed the nun's body on May 18 and discovered that it was apparently intact, four years after her death and burial in a simple wooden coffin. / Joe Bukuras/CNA

Gower, Missouri, May 29, 2023 / 20:02 pm (CNA).

The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, an African American nun whose surprisingly intact remains have created a sensation at a remote Missouri abbey, was placed inside a glass display case Monday after a solemn procession led by members of the community she founded.

About 5 p.m., dozens of religious sisters of the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles, carried their foundress on a platform around the property of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, reciting the rosary and singing hymns. Some of the thousands of pilgrims who visited the abbey over the three-day Memorial Day weekend followed behind.

The procession, held in bright, late-afternoon sunshine, culminated inside the abbey’s church, where the nun’s body was placed into a specially made glass case. Flowers surrounded her body and decorated the top of the case, where there is an image of St. Joseph holding the Child Jesus. The church was filled with pilgrims, including many priests and religious sisters from other orders. 

Sister Wilhelmina, who founded the Benedictine order in 1995 when she was 70 years old, died in 2019. Expecting to find only bones, her fellow sisters exhumed her remains on May 18 intending to reinter them in a newly completed St. Joseph’s Shrine, only to discover that her body appeared astonishingly well-preserved.

The sisters say they intended to keep their discovery quiet, but the news got out anyway, prompting worldwide media coverage and a flood of pilgrims arriving at the abbey in Gower, a city of 1,500 residents about an hour’s drive from Kansas City, Missouri. A volunteer told CNA that more than 1,000 vehicles came onto the property on Monday but no official count was available.

There has been no official declaration that Sister Wilhelmina's remains are “incorrupt,” a possible sign of sanctity, nor is there a formal cause underway for her canonization, a rigorous process that can take many years. The local ordinary, Bishop Vann Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, has said that a “thorough investigation” is needed to answer “important questions” raised by the state of her body, but there has been no word on if or when such an analysis will take place. 

Sister Wilhelmina's body was reinterred in a glass display case inside the church of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in Gower, Missouri, on May 29, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Sister Wilhelmina's body was reinterred in a glass display case inside the church of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in Gower, Missouri, on May 29, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA

Before Monday's procession, pilgrims again waited in line throughout the day for an opportunity to see and touch Sister Wilhelmina’s body before its placement in the glass case, where it will remain accessible for public viewing.

Among those who came on Monday were Tonya and William Kattner, of Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

“You've got to experience the magic and the miracle of it,” Tonya Kattner said.

“It’s a modern-day miracle and it was just something we had to come to,” William Kattner said. “Especially with everything going on in the world today, something like this brings hope.”

Kate and Peteh Jalloh of Kansas City, Missouri, said it was a "blessing" to view the apparently well-preserved body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster at her abbey in Gower, Missouri, on May 29, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Kate and Peteh Jalloh of Kansas City, Missouri, said it was a "blessing" to view the apparently well-preserved body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster at her abbey in Gower, Missouri, on May 29, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA

Kate and Peteh Jalloh, of Kansas City, Missouri, also didn't want to pass up the chance to see Sister Wilhelmina.

“I strongly believe in the Catholic faith. I believe in miracles and I have never seen anything like this before. I’ve got a lot going on in my life and this is the best time to get that message from a nun,” Kate Jalloh said.

“It could take another hundred years for us to see something like this,” she added.

Janie Bruck came with her cousins, Kristy Cook and Halle Cook, all from Omaha, Nebraska. 

“I came to witness the miracle. I believe we’re in a Jesus revolution and he’s sending us lots of signs,” Bruck said. Kristy Cook, a former Omaha police officer, said she was surprised that Sister Wilhelmina’s body had no odor of decay.

The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, OSB, lies in the basement of the church of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus outside Gower, Missouri, on May 28, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA
The body of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, OSB, lies in the basement of the church of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus outside Gower, Missouri, on May 28, 2023. Joe Bukuras/CNA

The sisters have publicly thanked the many local law enforcement officers, medical personnel, and volunteers who helped manage the influx of pilgrims over the holiday weekend.

Among the volunteers was Lucas Boddicker, of Kearney, Missouri, who joined members of his Knights of Columbus council based at St. Anne’s Catholic Church in nearby Plattsburgh, Missouri, to guide visiting vehicles to a makeshift parking lot in an open field. Other knights from local parishes helped set up tents and handed out free hamburgers, fruit, and bottles of water.

“That’s one thing the Knights do pretty well,” Boddicker said. “They get the word out when we need manpower.”

Priests heard confessions in a large grass field for hours, some using trees for shade, as young children played on the abbey grounds.

Three religious sisters from the Poor of Jesus Christ order, based in Kansas City, Kansas, said they were inspired by seeing Sister Wilhelmina’s body. 

One of the religious, Sister Azucena, said she “wanted to cry,” while praying at the nun’s side. “I just had this feeling of peace and love. We share a vocation. Her fidelity to the Lord and her love, I could feel that there,” she said.

Jason and Jessica Ewell were excited to coincidentally be in town visiting Trish Bachicha (far right) when they heard about the discovery of Sister Wilhelmina's surprisingly intact remains. Joe Bukuras/CNA
Jason and Jessica Ewell were excited to coincidentally be in town visiting Trish Bachicha (far right) when they heard about the discovery of Sister Wilhelmina's surprisingly intact remains. Joe Bukuras/CNA

A married couple, Jason and Jessica Ewell, both of whom are blind, were visiting Kansas City, Missouri, from Pennsylvania when they heard Monday morning about Sister Wilhelmina’s body.

“It’s just kind of a neat thing to be a part of the beginning of this story,” Jessica Ewell said.

“I was asking for her intercession for children for our marriage,” she said. “A lot of people think ‘Oh, it’s the blindness,’ but no, it’s not that at all,’” she said.

“Yesterday I was kind of in a place where I said, ‘God, I need something right now,’” she said. “We always hear about these miracles. But they’re long ago and far away and always happen to other people.”

Trish Bachicha, Jessica’s mother, said she believes that God is sending a message. 

“He saying ‘I’m alive and well and I haven’t forgotten you,’” she said.

Catholic ‘Shark Tank’: Startup founders pitch products with a purpose at SENT competition

Francisco Cornejo of Storybook is awarded the grand prize at “Catholic Shark Tank.” / Credit: Courtesy photo/SENT

Washington D.C., May 29, 2023 / 07:00 am (CNA).

In a “Shark Tank”-style competition with a twist, Catholic founders recently pitched their startups and faced questions from a panel of judges while highlighting the importance of the Catholic faith in their businesses. 

The event was the culmination of the SENT Ventures Summit at The Catholic University of America last month, a gathering of Catholic CEOs and founders looking to foster connections and grow in their faith. 

Zak Slayback, a partner with the 1517 Fund, a venture capital fund supporting startups at early stages, is on the management team at the new Catholic investor group Catholic Angels, which hosted the event. 

Slayback told the National Catholic Register that the competition “provided a chance for faith-driven entrepreneurs to present their startups to an audience of aligned partners and investors.” The winner took home $5,000 cash for their business as well as “credits for various startup resources, swag, and direct opportunities with SENT’s Catholic Angels investor network.” 

The four early-stage startups selected as finalists were chosen out of more than 60 teams that applied to present at the competition. These four finalists told their stories to the judges, emphasizing their faith alignment, qualified team, user growth, the market for their product, and why the product works in today’s market.

Caring for the elderly

Nigel Mould, CEO at StackCare, talked about how his business was born out of the growing need to care for the elderly while preserving both their dignity and the peace of mind of caregivers. 

“StackCare delivers alerts directly to family members and/or caregivers, and we do it all without being intrusive, while being HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant, and making sure that we deliver on our core promise of dignity and independence for seniors and peace of mind for families,” Mould explained.

Nigel Mould, CEO of StackCare. Credit: Courtesy photo
Nigel Mould, CEO of StackCare. Credit: Courtesy photo

While their system is not a medical device, it does provide “insight to developing and/or potential problems: poor sleep, frequency or length of bathroom visits, skipping meals, activity levels, and much more.”

Mould said StackCare already has paid contracts in several states from Connecticut to California and is also establishing partnerships with paid installations at national home-care providers.

“The plea of the elderly in Psalm 71, ‘Do not cast me away when I am old,’ and the lack of caregivers today and in the future, for us is almost an invitation to use technology to allow seniors to age in place as they want to,” he said, “but at the same time letting families and caregivers know when they might need help.”

Reaching the Indian Catholic community

Tania Kottoor, founder and CEO of West by East, began her presentation by telling the story of a first-generation Indian-American woman who grew up in a Catholic community and also enjoyed watching Bollywood films, envisioning herself as a traditional bride in a sari. 

When her wedding planning actually came around, she discovered a shortage of traditional options both online and in the few stores that were hours away. This scenario is how her company, West by East, was born, Kottoor recounted. 

“Our customers can go to our website, they can select a silhouette, color, fabric; and then they can use their phone to take their measurements virtually in 60 seconds,” she said. “This allows us to capture their avatar, to create a 3-D rendering of the complete outfit on their actual body.”

Tania Kottoor, founder and CEO of West by East. Credit: Courtesy photo
Tania Kottoor, founder and CEO of West by East. Credit: Courtesy photo

“My co-founder and I have 20 years of experience in luxury fashion and manufacturing,” she said. “We both grew up in an Indian-Catholic community, as well as an immigrant household, and we realized that you need faith to succeed.”

“The values that we learned in church we brought into our business,” she continued. “Now, we have a crazy waitlist of over 2,000 folks, which equates to over half a million dollars in potential revenue. We have demand, but we’re at capacity. Now, we’re raising $1.2 million to be the market leader and to unlock that waitlist.”

She told the judges that their business has sold more than 1,500 units and 500 of those were to people of Catholic backgrounds. “We really lean into our own community to grow the business,” she said.

She hopes their business can one day expand to other diasporas like East Asian, African, and Middle Eastern communities. “I’ve seen so many brands come and go in the past few years,” she said. “No one’s doing it for other Catholics as well in all these diasporas.”

Making food safer

Paddy McNamara, the founder of Allera Tech, asked audience members to raise their hands if they knew someone with a food allergy. 

“Almost all of us do,” he pointed out, then he shared a near-death experience he had due to his tree-nut allergy. 

“It taught me that allergens are not just a problem for individuals with food allergies but [for] food manufacturers as well,” he said. “The average recall costs $10 million, and allergens are the No. 1 reason for recalls — so allergens are expensive. They’re also life-threatening.” 

He said that for some of these food-manufacturing companies, “their quality-assurance data is entirely pen and paper. So right now, someone on the floor writes it down, pen and paper, hands it to a manager, who manually types it into Excel, and then it’s put into a filing cabinet for five to seven years for FDA audit.”

Paddy McNamara, founder of Allera Tech. Credit: Courtesy photo
Paddy McNamara, founder of Allera Tech. Credit: Courtesy photo

Allera Tech is addressing this circumstance with a software platform to input, store, and analyze data. The system, he said, would replace “pen and paper, which is prone to error.” 

He explained that sanitizing and testing equipment for allergens currently takes a company about 15 minutes. 

“For a food manufacturer, an hour of down time equates to about $40,000,” he said. “Some of these companies do hundreds of tests per week.”

In the longer term, his company is attempting to shorten the time involved in testing. 

The company has several contracts with companies utilizing their software as well as a partnership with a top-10 food producer to build an allergen testing solution.

McNamara was raised Catholic but drifted from the Church. He had a turning point during volunteer experiences serving the poor in AmeriCorps for a year in Missouri and a few months in El Salvador. 

“It was the mystics like Thomas Merton and Teresa de Ávila that taught me how God sustains us through intense service experiences,” he said. “I found myself just always returning to the Catholic expression that I left.”

Family bonding over stories

Francisco Cornejo, co-founder and CEO of the “Storybook” app, and his wife and co-founder, Daniela Vega, came up with the business idea after their experience moving from Ecuador to Australia with their two young children, then ages 1 and 3, as Cornejo was completing his master’s degree. Due to their busy schedule, there was stress and anxiety at home. 

“Daniela realized that she needed to connect with the kids,” he said. “Through faith and prayer, she found out about infant massage and how this was such an important tool to connect through the importance of physical affection; and while she was practicing this with the kids, she used to tell them stories. She had an iPad and candles, and she’d create this fantastic bedtime routine.”

“The kids started to fight each other about who’s going to go first,” he said, “but, more meaningfully, that was the moment we started to really bond with them.”

Francisco Cornejo of Storybook. Credit: Courtesy photo
Francisco Cornejo of Storybook. Credit: Courtesy photo

Their award-winning Storybook app combines relaxation techniques like guided reading and infant massage with bedtime stories and music to improve families’ emotional well-being and physical health. The app is free to download with yearly subscription plans and also has partnerships with schools and health providers.

Their database of more than 100 original audio stories in Spanish, English, and Portuguese, including Bible stories, continues to grow and is for children ages infant through 12. 

“Seventy-nine percent of the parents using Storybook told us that their kids are sleeping better [and] are sleeping up to four times faster,” Cornejo said. “Eighty-nine percent of them told us that they feel more connected with their kids. We have been the No. 1 app in 90 countries. We have been called the ‘best for bedtime’ by Apple. We have surpassed 2.5 million downloads, more than 10,000 five-star reviews.”

And the winner is…

While the judges showed interest and appreciation for all the pitches, the Storybook app won the evening. “The Storybook team impressed our panel of judges with their ability to identify a real problem and bring Christ in a solution to their audience,” Slayback said.

Francisco Cornejo of Storybook is awarded the grand prize at “Catholic Shark Tank.”. Credit: Courtesy photo/SENT
Francisco Cornejo of Storybook is awarded the grand prize at “Catholic Shark Tank.”. Credit: Courtesy photo/SENT

Cornejo told the Register via email that “being among faith-driven founders was inspiring, and winning was a true blessing. It has already opened doors, leading to promising conversations with potential advisers and investors.” He also praised the SENT Summit, calling it “a unique blend of faith and business, a testament to the transformative work God is leading us all to undertake.”

Vega saw the win as “a deeply touching affirmation of our mission.”

“We know that God does not inspire the impossible; we are sure that our company is the work of God and that he uses our small forces to put us to work to rescue the family that today is so attacked,” she said. “This is more than a job for us — it’s a calling.” 

This article was first published May 18, 2023, at the National Catholic Register and is reprinted here on CNA with permission.

Post office in Kansas receives new name in honor of Father Emil J. Kapaun

Father Emil Kapaun celebrating Mass using the hood of a jeep as his altar, Oct. 7, 1950. Public domain. / null

Denver, Colo., May 29, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

After several years in the making, the United States Post Office in Herington, Kansas, will be changing its name to the Captain Emil J. Kapaun Post Office Building on May 30. This endeavor was first introduced in 2021 through a bill written by U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann, who wished to honor the life of the great Kansan and American hero.

“Father Emil Kapaun was a man of God who served Jesus and his country honorably,” Mann said during his speech on the House floor on Oct. 20, 2021.

The May 30 ceremonial day will begin at 11:30 a.m. CST with a memorial Mass at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church in Herington. The Mass will be concelebrated by priests from both the Salina and Wichita dioceses.

The renaming dedication ceremony will follow at 1 p.m. CST at the post office. U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and Rep. Ron Estes are scheduled to attend the event. The public is invited to enjoy refreshments afterward and visit Kapaun’s Medal of Honor and Taegeuk, the Korean Medal of Honor, which will be on display.

Kapaun was born in Pilsen, Kansas, on April 20, 1916. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Wichita on June 9, 1940. Four years later, he began at the U.S. Army Chaplain School at Fort Devens (Massachusetts) and was later sent overseas to serve troops during the Korean War.

During his time in Korea, Kapaun regularly celebrated Mass, at times on the battlefield using the hood of a jeep as a makeshift altar. He brought the sacraments to troops, tended to the injured, and prayed with them in the foxholes.

In 1950, during the Battle of Unsan, Kapaun was captured along with other soldiers by communists. They were taken to a prison camp in Pyoktong, North Korea. While in the camp, Kapaun would regularly steal food for his fellow prisoners and managed to tend to their spiritual needs despite a prohibition on prayer.

Kapaun died on May 23, 1951, after months of malnutrition and pneumonia. He was named a Servant of God in 1993, his cause for canonization opened in June 2008, and he received the Medal of Honor from President Barack Obama in 2013. 

In March 2021, his remains were identified by investigators from the Department of Defense. It was determined that the priest’s remains were among nearly 900 unidentified soldiers buried at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Hawaii.   

Kapaun’s remains returned to his hometown of Pilsen in September 2021. Their arrival marked 70 years since the American hero had died in a prisoner of war camp at the age of 35.

During his funeral Mass on Sept. 29, 2021, Bishop Carl Kemme said Kapaun’s ministry as a chaplain was characterized by “a sacrificial and selfless love of others, especially his beloved fellow soldiers … The accounts of his service to his fellow soldiers in those last months, his fellow POWs, reveal so much of the man whose body we honor today with Christian burial. His love was simple, effective, selfless, and deep.”

Promote Christian values, not divisions, on social media, Vatican says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Catholics should make an "examination of conscience" about how they use social media, how they allow it to influence them and about the opportunities it provides them to share the Gospel, build community and care for others, said the Vatican Dicastery for Communication.

"Unfortunately, the tendency to get carried away in heated and sometimes disrespectful discussions is common with online exchanges," said the dicastery's document, "Toward Full Presence. A Pastoral Reflection on Engagement with Social Media."

"The problem of polemical and superficial, and thus divisive, communication is particularly worrying when it comes from church leadership: bishops, pastors and prominent lay leaders," the document said. "These not only cause division in the community but also give permission and legitimacy for others likewise to promote similar type of communication."

Signed by Paolo Ruffini, prefect of the dicastery, and Msgr. Lucio A. Ruiz, secretary of the office, the document was released at a news conference May 29.

When faced with erroneous or divisive content on social media, the document said, "often the best course of action is not to react, or to react with silence so as not to dignify this false dynamic."

Asked if there was not something more active the dicastery could do, for example, with a bishop acting badly on social media, Ruffini responded that it is not the competency of his office to discipline anyone, but in general on social media it is better not to share or comment on offensive content since it only raises its profile.

Xavière Missionary Sister Nathalie Becquart, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops, a member of the dicastery, said everyone in the church needs to be educated about social media and learn to discern "when to speak and when not to speak."

While the document argued for the need for Catholics to sometimes take a break from social media to pray, reflect and spend time with others in person, it recognized social media as a vehicle for sharing Gospel values and as daily part of life for millions of people around the world, including many people in developing nations whose only digital access is to social media.

But it also called on Catholics to be fully informed about its pitfalls and recognize that companies claim their platforms were designed "to bring the world closer together, to give everyone the power to create and share ideas, or to give everyone a voice," when, in fact, they are businesses that make money by using an individual's posts to target advertising to them and by selling their profiles and data.

The document quoted an adage that says, "'If you are not paying for it, you are the product.' In other words, it is not free: we are paying with minutes of our attention and bytes of our data."

People also must be aware, it said, that the history of who they follow, what they look at and what they search for feed into algorithms that increasingly narrow the posts, search results and advertising they receive.

"The consequence of this increasingly sophisticated personalization of results is a forced exposure to partial information, which corroborates our own ideas, reinforces our beliefs, and thus leads us into an isolation of 'filter bubbles,'" the document said.

The dicastery called on Catholics to burst those bubbles by purposefully expanding their sources of information and by trying to understand people with whom they have differences.

The growing sophistication of artificial intelligence, fake news and "deep fake" images and videos also require education and a critical look at what people find online, the document said.

Asked, for example, about the AI-generated photo of Pope Francis in a puffy white jacket and jeweled crucifix that went viral in March, Msgr. Ruiz told reporters that the dicastery is studying ways to give people "the resources to know when they are seeing a real photo, real video or real audio of the Holy Father and not something else."

In calling Catholics to make an "examination of conscience" about their use of social media, the document said that self-examination should start with how it impacts "three vital relationships: with God, our neighbor and the environment around us."

With the document, the dicastery launched a website -- -- where people can download the document, find a study guide to it and join a "community of faith communicators" to reflect and share best practices.


PHOTOS: Thousands visiting Sister Wilhelmina's body over holiday weekend

Thousands of pilgrims have lined up at the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus in Gower, Missouri, to view the remains of Sr. Wilhelmina Lancaster. / null

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 28, 2023 / 14:05 pm (CNA).

Thousands of pilgrims are descending on a Benedictine abbey outside rural Gower, Missouri, this Memorial Day weekend to view the surprisingly well-preserved body of its African American foundress, Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster, who died in 2019.

On Sunday, the feast of Pentecost, an average of 200 vehicles per hour were coming onto the abbey's property, an uptick in traffic from the day before, Clinton County Sheriff Larry Fish said in a Facebook video update. He said he expected 15,000 people to visit the site by the end of the day.

"We're going to see this probably for months, but right now this weekend is probably going to be the biggest influx of people that you’re going to see in this area," Fish predicted in an earlier video posted May 25.

A Benedictine sister looks on as visitors offer prayers at the side of Sister Wilhelmina's remains. Craig J. Campbell/EWTN News
A Benedictine sister looks on as visitors offer prayers at the side of Sister Wilhelmina's remains. Craig J. Campbell/EWTN News

Part of the urgency for those visiting the abbey over the holiday weekend is the limited opportunity to touch the nun’s body, which has been on public display in a room in the basement of the abbey's church for more than a week.

On Saturday, a photojournalist working for EWTN News witnessed pilgrims touching parts of Sister Wilhelmina's body with their hands or rosary beads and even kissing her hands. Such direct physical contact won’t be possible after Monday afternoon when the nun’s remains will be placed in a glass enclosure, though her body will still be available for public viewing.

A glass-enclosed case is being prepared to house the remains of Sister Wilhelmina. Craig J. Campbell/EWTN News
A glass-enclosed case is being prepared to house the remains of Sister Wilhelmina. Craig J. Campbell/EWTN News

No investigation so far

Sister Wilhelmina, a St. Louis native, founded the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles in 1995 when she was 70 years old. She died on May 29, 2019, and her unembalmed body was buried in a simple wooden coffin in the abbey’s outdoor cemetery.

Expecting to find only bones when they exhumed her remains on May 18 to be reinterred in their newly constructed St. Joseph’s Shrine, the sisters were astonished to find her body and traditional nun’s habit still remarkably intact. In addition, pilgrims who have visited the body have told CNA they did not smell any odor of decay. The sisters say they have applied wax to Sister Wilhelmina's hands and face.

The condition of her body has puzzled even experienced morticians. "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,” Barry Lease, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Institute of Mortuary Science, told CNA last week.

Many of the pilgrims brought rosaries to visit the remains of Sister Wilhelmina, who is remembered for her devotion to Our Lady. Craig J. Campbell/EWTN News
Many of the pilgrims brought rosaries to visit the remains of Sister Wilhelmina, who is remembered for her devotion to Our Lady. Craig J. Campbell/EWTN News

There has been no official determination that Sister Wilhelmina’s remains are “incorrupt,” a possible sign of sanctity, nor is there any cause underway for the nun’s canonization, a rigorous process in the Catholic Church that can take many years.

The local ordinary, Bishop Vann Johnston of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, who has visited the monastery to see Sister Wilhelmina’s remains, has said that a “thorough investigation” is needed to answer “important questions” raised by the state of her body, but there has been no word if and when such an analysis might take place. On Sunday a spokeswoman for the diocese said she was mistaken when she told CNA last week that Johnston had “been in touch with someone in Rome” about what has happened at the abbey.

Discovery meant to be kept quiet

Over the weekend, the Benedictine sisters posted a new statement on their website, announcing plans to hold a public rosary procession Monday at 4:30 p.m. local time, after which they will place Sister Wilhelmina’s body in the glass enclosure inside the St. Joseph's Shrine.

In the statement, the sisters also revealed that they had hoped to keep the startling condition of their foundress' body quiet.

“We had no intent to make the discovery so public, but unfortunately, a private email was posted publicly, and the news began to spread like wildfire." they wrote. "However, God works in mysterious ways, and we embrace His new plan for us."

An aerial view of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, as pilgrims arrive to visit the remains of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster. Craig J. Campbell/EWTN News
An aerial view of the Abbey of Our Lady of Ephesus, as pilgrims arrive to visit the remains of Sister Wilhelmina Lancaster. Craig J. Campbell/EWTN News

The sisters said that they continued their normal daily routines despite the crowds and worldwide media attention.

“Many have voiced concern about the disruption to our life, but we have, thankfully, remained unaffected and able to continue on in our life of ora et labora, prayer and work, as Sister Wilhelmina would have it,” the statement says.

“Unless we looked out the front windows, or out at the crowds attending our Mass and Divine Offices, we would not even know people are here. An army of volunteers and our local law enforcement have stepped forward to manage the crowds, and we are deeply grateful to each of them, as they allow us to continue our life in peace, while granting the visitors a pleasant and prayerful experience at the Abbey.”

Everything you need to know about Pentecost

Depiction of the Holy Spirit in St. Peter’s Basilica. / Paolo Gallo / Shutterstock.

Denver, Colo., May 28, 2023 / 02:00 am (CNA).

This weekend, the Church celebrates Pentecost, one of the most important feast days of the year that concludes the Easter season and celebrates the beginning of the Church.  

Here’s what you need to know about the feast day.

The timing and origins of Pentecost

Pentecost always occurs 50 days after the resurrection of Jesus and 10 days after his ascension into heaven. Because Easter is a moveable feast without a fixed date, and Pentecost depends on the timing of Easter, Pentecost can fall anywhere between May 10 and June 13.

The timing of these feasts is also where Catholics get the concept of the novena — nine days of prayer — because in Acts 1, Mary and the Apostles prayed together “continuously” for nine days after the Ascension leading up to Pentecost. Traditionally, the Church prays the novena to the Holy Spirit in the days before Pentecost.

The name of the day itself is derived from the Greek word “pentecoste,” meaning 50th.

There is a parallel Jewish holiday, Shavu’ot, which falls 50 days after Passover. Shavu’ot is sometimes called the festival of weeks, referring to the seven weeks since Passover.

Originally a harvest feast, Shavu’ot now commemorates the sealing of the Old Covenant on Mount Sinai, when the Lord revealed the Torah to Moses on Mount Sinai. Every year, the Jewish people renew their acceptance of the gift of the Torah on this feast.

What happens at Pentecost?

In the Christian tradition, Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the Upper Room.

A “strong, driving” wind filled the room where they were gathered, and tongues of fire came to rest on their heads, allowing them to speak in different languages so that they could understand each other. It was such a strange phenomenon that some people thought the Christians were just drunk — but Peter pointed out that it was only the morning, and said the phenomenon was caused by the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit also gave the apostles the other gifts and fruits necessary to fulfill the great commission — to go out and preach the Gospel to all nations. It fulfills the New Testament promise from Christ (Luke 24:46-49) that the Apostles would be “clothed with power” before they would be sent out to spread the Gospel.

Where’s that in the bible?

The main event of Pentecost (the strong driving wind and tongues of fire) takes place in Acts 2:13, though the events immediately following (Peter’s homily, the baptism of thousands) continue through verse 41.

Happy Birthday, Church!

It was right after Pentecost that Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, preached his first homily to Jews and other non-believers, in which he opened the scriptures of the Old Testament, showing how the prophet Joel prophesied events and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

He also told the people that the Jesus they crucified is the Lord and was raised from the dead, which “cut them to the heart.” When they asked what they should do, Peter exhorted them to repent of their sins and to be baptized. According to the account in Acts, about 3,000 people were baptized following Peter’s sermon.

For this reason, Pentecost is considered the birthday of the Church — Peter, the first Pope, preaches for the first time and converts thousands of new believers. The apostles and believers, for the first time, were united by a common language, and a common zeal and purpose to go and preach the Gospel.

Pentecost vestments and customs around the world

Typically, priests will wear red vestments on Pentecost, symbolic of the burning fire of God’s love and the tongues of fire that descended on the apostles.

However, in some parts of the world, Pentecost is also referred to as “WhitSunday”, or White Sunday, referring to the white vestments that are typically worn in Britain and Ireland. The white is symbolic of the dove of the Holy Spirit, and typical of the vestments that catechumens desiring baptism wear on that day.

An Italian Pentecost tradition is to scatter rose leaves from the ceiling of the churches to recall the miracle of the fiery tongues, and so in some places in Italy, Pentecost is sometimes called Pascha Rosatum (Easter roses).

In France, it is tradition to blow trumpets during Mass to recall the sound of the driving wind of the Holy Spirit.

In Asia, it is typical to have an extra service, called genuflexion, during which long poems and prayers are recited. In Russia, Mass-goers often carry flowers or green branches during Pentecost services.

This article was originally published on CNA June 2, 2017, and was updated May 26, 2023.

Pope on Pentecost: Synod is journey in the Spirit, not 'a parliament'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church's current Synod of Bishops should not be a "parliament for demanding rights," but a "journey in accordance with the Spirit," Pope Francis said.

The synod, which seeks to gather input from all baptized Catholics on building a listening church, is not "an occasion for following wherever the wind is blowing, but the opportunity to submit to the breath of the Spirit," he said.

In his homily for Pentecost Mass in St. Peter's Basilica May 28, the pope said that the Holy Spirit is "the heart of synodality and the driving force of evangelization."

"Without him, the church is lifeless, faith is mere doctrine, morality only a duty" and "pastoral work mere toil," he said. "We often hear so many so-called thinkers and theologians who give us cold doctrines that seem mathematical because they lack the Spirit."

Pope Francis, seated to the side of the basilica's main altar, spoke without difficulty just two days after he had cleared his day's schedule due to a fever.

Brazilian Cardinal João Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, was the main celebrant at the altar alongside Cardinals Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, and Leonardo Sandri, vice dean.

Reflecting on St. John's account of Jesus breathing on the apostles to impart the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis urged Christians to seek harmony in the church without doing away with the differences that enrich its character.

"The Spirit does not inaugurate the church by providing the community with rules and regulations, but by descending upon each of the apostles, every one of them receives particular graces and charisms," he explained. The Spirit "does not eliminate differences of cultures but harmonizes everything without reducing them to bland uniformity."

Embracing difference, the pope said, is key to resisting the temptation to look back in time with nostalgia or become "caught up in our plans and projects."

At Pentecost, however, "the life of the church began not from a precise and detailed plan, but from the shared experience of God's love," he said.

Pope Francis asked Christians to invoke the Holy Spirit daily to create harmony where there is division in the church and beyond.

"Let us think of the wars, so many conflicts, it seems incredible the evil of which we are capable. Yet fueling our hostilities is the spirit of division, the devil, whose very name means 'divider,'" he said.

Conversely, the Holy Spirit "opposes the spirit of division because he is harmony, the Spirit of unity, the bringer of peace."

"If the world is divided, if the church is polarized, if hearts are broken, let us not waste time in criticizing others and growing angry with one another," Pope Francis said, "instead, let us invoke the Holy Spirit."

The pope encouraged Christians to reflect on their relationship with the Holy Spirit and asked them to develop a faith that is "docile in the Spirit," and not "stubbornly attached" to "so-called doctrines that are only cold expressions of life."

"If we want harmony let us seek (the Spirit), not worldly substitutes," he said.

At the end of Mass, Pope Francis he smiled and waved to onlookers as he was taken down the basilica's central nave while seated in a wheelchair.

Reciting the "Regina Coeli" prayer with an estimated 15,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square after the Mass, Pope Francis again spoke of the synod, asking people to join special prayers planned for May 31, the end of the month traditionally dedicated to Mary.

"At the conclusion of the month of May," he said, "Marian shrines around the world are planning moments of prayer to support preparations for the upcoming ordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops," which is scheduled to meet in October at the Vatican. "We ask the Virgin Mary to accompany this important stage of the synod with her maternal protection."

"And to her we also entrust the desire for peace of so many peoples throughout the world, especially of the tormented Ukraine," he said.

Pope: May the Spirit guide the synod

Pope: May the Spirit guide the synod

During his homily on Pentecost, Pope Francis prayed the Holy Spirit would guide the church into the future.

Here’s when Easter officially ends

Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov's Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene (1835) / null

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, May 27, 2023 / 06:00 am (CNA).

Catholics recognize Easter — when Jesus Christ rose from the dead after sacrificing his life for all of humanity — as the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the spring equinox. But, as it turns out, they can continue saying “Happy Easter” into May or, in some years, into June.

Easter lasts for a total of 50 days, from Easter Sunday until the feast of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Christ. 

This year, 2023, Easter was on April 9 and runs until this Sunday, May 28. 

Easter explained

Catholics observe Easter in different stages. Easter Sunday is the greatest Sunday of the year, and it marks the start of the “Easter octave,” or the eight days that stretch from the first to the second Sunday of Easter (also known as Divine Mercy Sunday). The Church celebrates each of these eight days as solemnities of the Lord — a direct extension of Easter Sunday.

The entire Easter season lasts 50 days and includes the solemnity of the Ascension of Christ, which falls on the 40th day of Easter, which this year was May 18 (or May 21 in some dioceses). It ends with Pentecost, which is derived from the Greek word “pentecoste,” meaning “50th.” 

“The 50 days from the Sunday of the Resurrection to Pentecost Sunday are celebrated in joy and exultation as one feast day, indeed as one ‘great Sunday,’” according to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “These are the days above all others in which the ‘Alleluia’ is sung.”

The USCCB calls Easter “the most important of all liturgical times.”

“It celebrates Jesus’ victory of sin and death and salvation for mankind,” the U.S. bishops say. “It is God’s greatest act of love to redeem mankind.”

In the traditional Roman rite

In the traditional form of the Roman rite, Easter is known properly as Paschaltide, which includes three parts: the season of Easter, Ascensiontide, and the octave of Pentecost. It thus lasts one week longer than the Easter season in the calendar of the Missal of St. Paul VI.

The season of Easter begins with the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday and runs through the afternoon of the vigil of the Ascension. 

Ascensiontide begins the evening before the Ascension, with First Vespers of the feast, and ends the afternoon of the vigil of Pentecost — marking the first novena.

The octave of Pentecost is an extension of the feast of Pentecost, beginning with the vigil Mass of Pentecost and ending the afternoon of the following Saturday, which this year falls June 3.

This article was originally published April 21, 2022, and was updated May 26, 2023.

Columbus Diocese to close 15 churches; bishop calls for stronger Catholic engagement

The Vatican on April 2, 2022, announced that Pope Francis had appointed Father Earl K. Fernandes to be the next bishop of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. / Courtesy of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

Denver Newsroom, May 26, 2023 / 15:40 pm (CNA).

Ohio’s Catholic Diocese of Columbus will close 15 churches as part of a parish reorganization and merger plan, but Bishop Earl K. Fernandes emphasized new possibilities for growth, especially if lay Catholics take on more responsibility for the Church’s future.

“When I arrived, I said I’m not interested in presiding over 25 years of decline in the diocese,” the bishop said in a May 25 video series at the diocese’s YouTube channel. “I want to grow the church, not for my glory, but for God’s glory,” he said.

Fernandes said the reorganization plan was an effort to “try to come up with the best possible solution for the whole Diocese of Columbus.”

The bishop stressed the need for “an engaged lay faithful” who take shared responsibility for the Church’s mission of evangelization and for the future of their parishes in “authentic collaboration” with clergy.

The diocese serves more than 278,000 Catholics at 108 churches in 23 counties of central Ohio.

The changes are needed due to declining church attendance and fewer young priests, as well as population decline in rural areas and population shifts in the Columbus area, according to WOSU 89.7 NPR News. Two Catholic schools will also close.

At the same time, there are signs of growth in the diocese. The bishop noted a “huge number” of Spanish-speaking people, compared with 10 years ago, as well as an influx of Africans, some of whom speak French. The diocese has 15 new prospective seminarians this year, but those who continue to ordination will still take years of study and preparation.

“Columbus is unique in that it’s growing in the Midwest as a city with lots of jobs coming here,” Fernandes said. “But also Columbus, like many other dioceses, has an aging clergy, so something needed to be done, not just for the retraction of the diocese, but for the mission of evangelization.”

The bishop said the population influx could even mean the construction of new Catholic schools in parts of the diocese.

He said he hoped the planned changes are the foundation for a better future for the diocese. He said he envisions, in 10 or 15 years, parishes that are not simply maintaining what they have but are “actually evangelizing” and “making new disciples.” Parishes should have a “culture of vocations” and “beautiful churches and liturgy.”

The bishop described the diocese as “top-heavy” in aging clergy, with 12 priests over age 70 still working as parish pastors.

“Priests should be able to enjoy their retirement,” he said. “We knew we were going to have to make decisions and have pastors who have the energy and the leadership abilities to help parishes come together, to evangelize and to pastor multiple parishes.”

Religious orders have a growing presence in the diocese and are serving at various parishes, especially if they are prepared to serve ethnic communities and Spanish speakers. Capuchin Franciscan priests will arrive this summer to staff two churches in a newly merged parish, the diocese’s newspaper The Catholic Times reported.

The diocese’s reorganization process, titled “Real Presence, Real Future,” began in 2019 under Fernandes’ predecessor, Bishop Robert Brennan. The first draft of the reorganization model was released in fall 2021 and final recommendations were presented to the bishop in fall 2022. Final recommendations to Fernandes slated 19 churches for closure, but the bishop said he made adjustments based on input from parishioners and priests.

CNA contacted the Diocese of Columbus for comment but did not receive a response by publication.

The Columbus Diocese borders the Diocese of Steubenville. A proposal to merge the two dioceses was put on hold in November 2022.

Canadian police ask for public’s help in identifying man who set fire at cathedral 

Photos of the man who allegedly set a fire at St. Mary's Cathedral and charged at two staff members on May 19, 2023. / Calgary Police Department

Boston, Mass., May 26, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

Local police in Canada are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying a man who allegedly set a fire and assaulted two men at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Calgary, located in the western province of Alberta.

Police responded early in the morning to reports of a “deliberately set fire” at the cathedral on May 19, the Calgary Police Department said in a May 25 statement.

Two staff members at the cathedral heard a “commotion” outside and opened the back door to see what it was, the statement said. When they opened the door, a man “aggressively charged at them,” according to police. 

The two staff members, both men, closed the doors before the man could reach them, police said. The man continued to attempt to enter the church, the statement said. 

Law enforcement was called and the Calgary Fire Department put out the fire when it arrived.

According to police, a description of the man says he is between 35 and 45 years old and bald. The man is about 6 feet tall and 180 pounds, police said. The police department’s Hate Crime Prevention Team is investigating for “hate motivation,” police said.

The cathedral referred CNA to the Diocese of Calgary for comment.

Cristina Marcil, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Calgary told CNA Friday that the diocese is aware of the incident and is cooperating with law enforcement to support the investigation.

Tips can be submitted to police by calling 403-266-1234. Anonymous tips can be submitted by calling 1-800-222-8477 and going online at