A Flandreau native will make her final vows this month with the Carmelite Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Los Angeles.
Sister Gianna of the Resurrection, who grew up as Melissa Heinemann, will say those perpetual vows on July 21 in California, after spending 10 years at the convent. About 30 of her family and friends will attend the service, said her mother, Libby Heinemann.
“She took her first vows six years ago. They renew their vows every year,” Heinemann said. “This will be her final vows. She will get an actual wedding ring she will wear.”
Sister Gianna graduated in 2005 from Flandreau High School and earned a biology degree in 2009 from South Dakota State University. She was a member of Saints Simon and Jude Catholic Church in Flandreau. Her interest in the convent started after a trip to Germany for World Youth Day, her mother said. “This is the first time she saw so many religious sisters.”
A friend from Dell Rapids, Katie Klein who is Sister Marie Estelle, also joined the same convent.
Sister Gianna, 33, does administrative work and uses her musical talent to write music and help the convent produce a CD.
The Carmelite Sisters number about 130 and have six schools in California, Arizona, Colorado and Florida. They have a child care center and three healthcare facilities that include skilled nursing care, independent living and assisted living.
The Heinemanns, which include her brothers Jason and Mark and her sister Kim and their families, don’t often see Sister Gianna, who is the youngest. She can come home for two weeks every three years.
“We talk to her once a month for an hour,” her mother said. They also write letters and email each other.
When Sister Gianna is home, she always wears her habit, and has gone sledding and canoeing in it, Heinemann said. “All we see is her face and her hands,” she said.
“It’s hard at times, and we miss her,” Heinemann said. But they know the convent is right for Sister Gianna. “We’re very excited because we know she is so happy. That’s the thing every parent wants; is for our children to be happy.”
Those wishing to send a card to greet or congratulate Sister Gianna they can mail it to 819 Buena Vista St., Duarte, CA 91010.