Note: I chair the Commission for Women of the Diocese of Worcester, MA and we are putting on our biennial women’s conference, Gather Us In 2013 on November 2, 2013. Keynote speakers include Teresa Tomeo and ValLimar Jansen. My column this month focuses on Ms. Jansen and the wonderfully inspiring message she will bring through song and storytelling.
If you live in the New England area and want to attend the conference, visit our website at www.worcestercommissionforwomen.org to download a brochure and registration form. You can also write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send a brochure to you. If you need it mailed to you, call me at 508-839-3055 and leave a message and I will mail it out to you promptly.
Next month I will profile Teresa Tomeo.
The Gospel can be shared in so many ways. Most of us are accustomed to the Sunday homily or perhaps we watch EWTN and CatholicTV and listen to the speakers. Jesus preached as well but often took the approach of storytelling through parables to share to truth of the kingdom of God. Using images of everyday life, He taught the people about what it truly means to love God and neighbor.
Storytelling as a means of conveying the Gospel is alive and well today. For Gather Us In 2013, The Commission for Women is pleased to present as our morning keynote speaker ValLimar Jansen, consummate singer and storyteller. She will be using these talents to convey her message of “Responding to our God of Creation, Redemption and Inspiration.”
Jansen, a recording artist with Oregon Catholic Press (OCP), producer of missalettes and liturgical music, brings together her rich style of gospel music and storytelling abilities passed down from family members to provide a deep, heartfelt experience of the Good News. “My mother is a storyteller,” she says, “and going to bed was something we looked forward to. We had a very entertaining mother! Stories would end with a song and then we’d go to sleep.” Those stories from the Bible and the sacred songs her mother shared became an intregal part of Jansen’s life.
Her father also had the gift. “At my father’s funeral I found out that he was a storyteller. I never knew!” she says.
Jansen believes that storytelling is a powerful tool and that we all have that innate desire to tell our stories. She also believes in the power of music to convey a message. “I believe in my core that music is a universal language. We learn to sing before we speak. We coo, we make sounds that are very musical before we talk.”
Jansen’s path to her vocation as speaker, singer and storyteller was long and winding. She originally studied to become a pharmacist, doing her internship at the local VA Hospital. After performing her pharmaceutical tasks, she would linger with the veterans, listening to their stories, talking with them, singing to them, praying with them. Her supervising doctor wisely advised her to give up being a pharmacist, telling her to “Go and be what you’re supposed to be!”
A stint overseas as an entertainer “made me feel like I was doing something important” but she still didn’t make the connection that her talents were to be used for something more.
An invitation to the Los Angeles Religious Education Conference some twenty years ago finally placed ValLimar on her life’s path. She cantored at the Jazz Mass, met well-known liturgical musicians Marty Haugen and Tom Kendzia and was invited to do a workshop. This led to an invitation to an East Coast Conference and eventually it mushroomed into eighty to ninety events per year.
Jansen’s keynote address at the conference is meant to inspire the listener to live a life defined by the inspiration of Holy Spirit, just as she has done. “We need to search deeply within ourselves to recognize that we are created in the image and likeness and God; each of us has a purpose for which we are created. It’s love that transforms us to fulfill the purpose to which we were created.”
Having traveled the world, Jansen has noticed a common theme with all peoples: “I’ve seen some very visible things that are common no matter where I travel, no matter who I meet, no matter what I talk about. People want to better themselves.”
Jansen, formally a college professor, is fascinated with studies on the brain: “The thing that separates us from other primates is the question ‘why;’ personal development is why we are here on earth.”
Jansen knows that people are not meant to live in isolation. “We need relationships for greater meaning. God desires relationship. We desire to do something important to make the world a better place. We want our lives to have meaning, not just for ourselves but for others.”
“Life is not my house or my career but my relationships. Did my life have meaning? Did I do something that makes a difference on earth? That’s redemption and inspiration.”
ValLimar Jansen’s morning keynote will be memorable and inspirational. Registration is now open for the Gather Us In 2013 conference and you can download a brochure and registration form at www.worcestercommissionforwomen.org. You can also request a brochure by email by writing to email@example.com, or you can call Susan at 508-839-3055 and leave a message with your mailing address.
Copyright 2013 Susan Bailey