She grew up as a Southern Baptist in New Orleans, but that didn’t stop ValLimar Jansen from being fascinated by all things Catholic, such as devotions to Mary and the rosary.
"From the age of 4, I wanted to know more about the Catholic Church," Jansen said.
But when she told her mother that she wanted to know more, she was reminded that their family was Southern Baptist. This meant that Jansen had to wait until she was on her own before she could go to a Catholic Church.
"At my first Mass, I knew I was home," Jansen said. "The very next Monday, I went and signed up for RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults)."
She has maintained her passion and excitement for the Catholic Church, and Jansen said it is her goal to help others feel the same way.
"What I feel very strongly about is that God has called me to just re-evangelize the Catholic Church using the beauty and power of our Catholic faith, for the rest of my life," Jansen said.
It sounds like a lofty goal, but Jansen was speaking in the minutes just after an Aug. 8 performance at St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish’s Christ the King Church in Irondequoit, where she aimed to do just that. In addition to the performance, which featured storytelling and a wide variety of hymns, Jansen also presented a free professional development workshop Aug. 9 on "Catholic Rituals: Ever Ancient, Ever New."
Jansen, who lives in California, has sung and toured internationally, including playing the role of Beneatha with the Broadway touring cast in the European premier of "A Raisin in the Sun." She also cowrote a one-woman musical about musician Ethel Waters that received a special commendation from the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She also performed at the Loreto/Angora International Papal Event in Italy.
Including her latest CD, "Give God the Glory," Jansen has several CDs of Christian music, ranging from spiritual to contemporary works to traditional hymns, and she has been a guest artist on many other sacred music artists’ recordings. She has been a cantor, vocalist, jazz musician, university professor, worship and prayer leader, and workshop presenter at a range of events, including the National Catholic Youth Conference and many other national religious and ministry conferences.
"One of the things we can be completely confident and assured of is God’s love for us is endless," Jansen said.
During her Irondequoit performance, Jansen aimed to get the audience to be as passionate about singing as she is. Jansen told the audience members that they are the primary choir when they are at Mass, and she encouraged participants to sing out and sing along to the songs she was presenting.
"Songs must be important to God because in the holy Scriptures we are commanded to sing to the Lord," Jansen said.
She led the audience in greeting each other, sharing peace with each other, sharing pats on the back, tracing the sign of the cross on each other’s palms and trading high fives. She encouraged people to make eye contact and to pray for one another during the sign of peace.
"Do you realize during the sign of peace, it may be the only time that they have had someone look at them that day?" Jansen asked. "God sees me, and I matter to God."
Jansen narrated several stories from the Bible, including the creation story, the story of Jesus and the woman at the well, and the story of Jesus restoring sight to the man born blind.
"Sometimes we forget that this man born blind is also poor," Jansen said, as she introduced her story about the miraculous healing. "He is sitting on the side of the road begging. Sometimes we forget even people who don’t look like they are poor are poor."
Attendees said Jansen’s form of storytelling, during which she transformed from character to character using simple costume and body-language changes, helped them see the familiar stories in a new way.
"She reaches out to everybody and brings you in," said Mary Anne Deck of Irondequoit, a St. Kateri parishioner. "You need these kinds of things to reach back and get in touch with your faith again."Tags: Art, Monroe County East