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Catechist encourages teens to celebrate each other

Internationally renowned catechetical speaker, musician and storyteller ValLimar Jansen performed at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park on Feb. 2, wrapping up Catholic Schools Week and kicking off Black History Month. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

by Jill Ragar Esfeld

ROELAND PARK — “ValLimar Jansen is in the house, and we’re excited!” shouted Bishop Miege senior Justice Betts as he welcomed students here to an assembly wrapping up Catholic Schools Week and kicking off Black History Month.

Students from the gym floor to the top of the bleachers went wild cheering and clapping.

It was clear they knew what was about to happen.

“ValLimar Jansen came to Miege last year,” said principal Maureen Engen. “I’ve never witnessed an entire student body and faculty as inspired and united on a prayerful, deep level as after she performed.

“Hundreds of students asked me to have her back this year. Thanks be to God, she agreed to return!”

Students participate in ValLimar Jansen’s presentation at Bishop Miege High School in Roeland Park on Feb. 2. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

As Jansen took the stage she shouted, “It’s good to be back with you! How many of you are ready to have a good time?”

The response made it obvious Bishop Miege was eager to embrace whatever message Jansen came to deliver.

“Before she even spoke a word or sang a song,” said Engen, “everyone was on their feet ready to fully engage.”

Jansen’s message is all joy, love and acceptance wrapped in Christian faith.

As an internationally renowned catechetical speaker, musician and storyteller, to say she conveys that message with enthusiasm is an understatement.

Bishop Miege seniors Ruben Hernandez (left) and Javier Rubio (right) take part in the interactive assembly featuring ValLimar Jansen. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

Jansen invited all those present to stand up and move.

“We are going to sing together and move together,” she said. “Look at somebody and say, ‘Move with me today!’

“Look at somebody else and say, ‘Sing with me today!’”

The gymnasium was filled with exuberance as Jansen, accompanied by her husband Frank Jansen on the keyboard, wove music and movement through her faith-based messages.

“Every single day,” she told students, “we live our lives taking little steps toward sainthood — little steps learning to conform to the image and likeness of Jesus.”

Bishop Miege students enjoy ValLimar Jansen’s presentation at the school gym on Feb. 2. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

Expressing the importance of relying on God during difficult times, Jansen invited students to join her in singing the spiritual “Wade in the Water.”

To emphasize the presence of God in every human being, Jansen had students reverently bend at the waist, saying, “I am about service.”

Instructing them to stand up straight again, Jansen told students: “We recognize that every human being has the light of God in them.

“They’re created in the image of God — every human being. Amen?”

 “Amen!” the students shouted.

Praising the sanctity of silence, Jansen encouraged students to spend the upcoming Lenten season finding moments to have sacred silence with God. They then sang together “Sacred Silence.”

As part of this interactive performance, Jansen recited and acted out the poem “The Creation” by James Weldon Johnson.

She finished the performance singing “How Great Thou Art” as students joined in.

ValLimar Jansen gets the crowd up and moving during her presentation at Bishop Miege on Feb. 2. LEAVEN PHOTO BY JILL RAGAR ESFELD

To usher in Black History Month Jansen told students to acknowledge the difficult path to equality and the contribution of Americans of African decent.

But more important, she told students to celebrate the people right around them.

“Talk to somebody that doesn’t look like you,” she said. “Talk to someone from a different culture.

“Get to know each other. Don’t stay in your own group.”

Students then joined her in singing “Lean on Me.” (See: facebook.com/BishopMiegeHighSchool.) In closing, Jansen reminisced about her visit to Bishop Miege last year and a picture she has of students blessing her.

“I have been looking at that image over and over again this last year,” she said. “Seeing your hands raised blessing me, praying over me.

“And it has many times sustained me.”

In response, students once again extended their hands over the singer and her husband, asking the Holy Spirit to give them strength, courage, joy, peace and love.

About the author

Jill Esfeld

Jill Ragar Esfeld received a degree in Writing from Missouri State University and started her profession as a magazine feature writer, but quickly transitioned to technical/instructional writing where she had a successful career spanning more than 20 years. She returned to feature writing when she began freelancing for The Leaven in 2004. Her articles have won several awards from the Catholic Press Association. Jill grew up in Christ the King parish in Kansas City, Missouri; and has been a member of Holy Trinity Parish in Lenexa, Kansas, for 35 years.

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