It was on her confirmation day, at age 13, that Pauline heard clearly her call to religious life, and to be a missionary. That night, as she and her sister Teresa were gazing at the star-filled skies, she pointed to the southern sky and said, “That is where I want to go—to be a missionary there, far, far to the South.”
Pauline Catherine Heimerman grew up, the ninth of 11 children, on a farm near Ost, Kansas. She loved the farm and the natural beauty of the countryside. When her older sister, the Adorer Sister Georgiana, came home for a visit, Pauline returned with her to Ruma to begin her own new life as a member of the community, receiving the name Marciana.
Classroom, Music and Missions
In 1929, Sister Marciana Heimerman and the other sisters from Kansas returned to the newly established provincial house in Wichita. She spent 10 years teaching and providing music in both the school and the church in the various places she served. Music, in particular, was a special joy for Sister Marciana Heimerman throughout her life. Her desire to be a missionary led to her being one of the Sisters who spent four years in the parish of St. Peter Claver, which had been established to minister to Black Americans in that part of Wichita. She taught in the school and did social work among the poor.
She finally realized her early dream to be a missionary when she joined the Sisters who were establishing a mission in Brazil. Her role there was as the novice director, thus playing a significant part of forming the young women who joined the community and who worked among the people along the Amazon River. After 12 years, in 1960, she left the mission of Brazil and the life there that she had come to love to become the superior of the Wichita Province. Her assignment came at a tumultuous time in religious life following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
She later would call the appointment the most difficult assignment of her life.
First American as General Superior
Five years later, she was elected by the General Assembly of the Congregation as the first American to hold the position of General Superior in Rome.
She later reflected that she had prayed, “O God, please take care of the Sisters of the Congregation, and don’t let me get in your way.” Her hope was that God had prepared her to be a “bridge” between the traditional and the renewed way of life for religious.
She found joy being in Rome through the last months of Vatican II and witnessing the spirit emanating from it.
It came at a time when more was being learned about the Adorers’ founder, Maria de Mattias, through the translation of her letters and other papers.
Renewal in the Church
She and her assistant, Sister Mary Catherine Girrens, helped bring the congregation through the years of renewal in the Church and in religious life over the next 10 years.
Following the years in Rome, Marciana helped establish a formation program in the Southwest where she mentored young Hispanic women to join the congregation.
She died on May 24, 2001.