ST. FRANCIS — ValLimar Jansen could have pursued movie and television opportunities, but she felt pulled in a different direction. Instead of the fame and fortune of the big screen, ValLimar felt drawn to using her talents to spread the message of God.
A Catholic musician and storyteller, she will do just that during an archdiocesan liturgical ministry weekend, Jan. 27 and 28, beginning with a concert with her husband, Frank, on Friday at St. Mary Parish, Hales Corners.
The following day, a workshop which is a collaboration between the Office for Worship and the Archdiocesan Liturgical Musicians’ Association will be held at the Cousins Center for liturgical ministers. ValLimar will serve as a keynote speaker and lead one of the Saturday sessions “Proclaiming the Word.” Other presenters include Timothy O’Malley, director of the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, and Michael Batcho, director of music at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee.
Born in Louisiana and raised in the Baptist church, ValLimar Jansen began singing in church at age 4. By the time she was 5 she sang her first professional performance. The granddaughter of a Baptist pastor, she grew up with the Word of God as the center of her existence, but while she embraced the faith of her family, her heart began turning toward the Blessed Mother.
“I had (extended) family that was Catholic and I kept wondering why they got to have Mary and we didn’t. I wondered why they got to do other things and we didn’t,” she said. “And at the same time, I began having dreams of Mary and meeting her and Jesus in a garden. I remember telling my mother that I had another dream about Mary and she said, ‘Stop dreaming about Mary, we are Baptist.’”
When ValLimar was around 6, she convinced her mother to let her stay up to watch Christmas Midnight Mass. Enamored with the beauty of the Mass, she talked to her mother about it.
“She told me that this was the way our cousins did it, but we don’t do it that way,” she said, laughing. “When I became an adult, I went to Mass in the Neuman Center while in grad school in California, and I knew I was home. I finally felt home. I bring my rich training and love of Scriptures and dedication to live a life of holiness to the Catholic faith.”
After converting to Catholicism at the Easter Vigil in 1991, she attended a religious education conference in Los Angeles, advertised to be the largest gathering of Catholics in the United States. While there, she was asked to cantor with the jazz band.[su_pullquote align=”right”]If you go: Concert with ValLimar and Frank Jansen Friday, Jan. 27 St. Mary, 9520 W. Forest Home Ave., Hales Corners 7 p.m. Cost: $10 Liturgical Ministry Day Saturday, Jan. 28 Cousins Center, 3501 S. Lake Drive, St. Francis 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. $25, to register: tinyurl.com/liturgicalminday To see video of ValLimar in action visit: tinyurl.com/valmusic [/su_pullquote]
“I was blown away by the experience, went to the woman running it and told her that I loved her vision, supported it and wanted to come the following year to help. I told her I would sweep floors and move chairs,” she said. “The woman just told me to come back the next year. I went back year after year and was asked to cantor for different things. Later, she found out that I was a professor at Loyola Marymount and she asked me to do a workshop.”
ValLimar’s workshop was popular and she received numerous requests to give the workshop at parishes and conferences. She went from giving 14 events a year to more than 90.
She took a hiatus from her position as a professor of dramatic arts at Loyola Marymount several years ago to devote herself fulltime to her ministry.
She travels about 45 weeks of the year, performing at venues around the world, giving workshops, concerts and conferences. When she is not on the road, she and Frank enjoy their home in southern California, surrounded by their three adult children and extended family.
ValLimar is a guest artist on several CDs; she and Frank also have some CDs of their own. In 2008, the couple won UNITY Awards for Best Gospel Album and Best Gospel Song. ValLimar composes all her music with Frank’s help.
She trained as a fine arts major at Howard University in Washington D.C., and completed her bachelor’s degree at California State University, San Bernardino. ValLimar completed her master’s degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is a doctoral candidate in dramatic arts, from the same institution.
In her performances, ValLimar combines storytelling, speaking, music and prayer to reach her audience. She believes, “we all have this commission and we have been commissioned to be the living, broken body of Christ to the world. Even in our brokenness, we are all ministers of God’s love and ministry day is for the entire Body of Christ.”
Citing a recent study from St. Catherine of Siena Institute which found that only about 18 to 19 percent of people are practicing their faith, ValLimar said, “I hope my ministry may help them think about their faith in a different way, and that it reignites their passion for the faith.
“The thing I want people to think about the most,” ValLimar said. “is that when they think about a ministry day, most people think it is for lay ecclesial ministers. We are all called to minister, challenge and inspire others.”