Catholic middle school students delve into mysteries of Eucharist with poetry

April 23, 2024

Nefellie Frankel, an eighth grade student at St. Theresa Catholic School-Sugar Land, wrote the winning poem with the Latin title “Facie Dei” (Face of God). (Photo courtesy of Catholic Literary Arts)

HOUSTON — Writing poetry of angst entitled “While the World Burns” to the peaceful “Tranquil Harbor,” Archdiocesan Catholic middle school students received awards on April 10 for participating in the Catholic Literary Arts Sacred Poetry Contest.

The ceremony attendees, including sixth through eighth-grade students and their families, on the University of St. Thomas (UST) campus were welcomed by UST President Richard L. Ludwick. He called this CLA poetry contest “one part of the growing Catholic renaissance.”

One of the more personal poems among this year’s entries on the theme of Eucharistic Adoration was called “Never Too Young to Hear God.” Mason Wozniak, sixth grader at St. Anne Catholic School-Tomball, wrote about his father surviving a stroke and brain aneurysm and how prayer in their church’s adoration chapel helped the family cope with the trauma.

Part of the poem reads:

“My heart was open. I felt relieved.
I had faith. I believed.
So, with God beside me, I weathered the storm.
Things got better, and I got used to a new norm.”

Sarah Cortez, president and founder of Catholic Literary Arts, a nonprofit that supports writing programs starting in third grade through adulthood, said the organization received more than 1,000 poems submitted for this contest. That number was whittled down by professional judges to 30 finalists, she said.

“Then we chose these nine poems — first, second and third place winners — for each of the grades sixth through eighth. And of those first-place winners, an overall poet laureate is selected,” Cortez said.

This year’s poet laureate is Nefellie Frankel, first-place winner for eighth grade at St. Theresa Catholic School-Sugar Land with the Latin title “Facie Dei” (Face of God):

“And blood, the mark of Christ, by malice drawn
In God’s almighty chalice rests untouched.
Though hard we pray, His pain is never gone.
‘Till end of times, we shall recall as much.
Most sacred Lamb of God, through pain most sweet
Has sacrificed Himself for us to eat.”

Frankel said, “I prayed on it a lot. The Eucharist is a window into Christ’s life and into His death and resurrection.”

Her mother, Julie Griffin, also credited St. Theresa’s classical curriculum and her teachers.

“Dr. Klumpenhouwer is great, and so are all her teachers there,” Griffin said.

Samuel Klumpenhouwer, Ph.D., who studied medieval Latin and Church history, now holds the record for one of his students being selected as poet laureate three years in a row in this annual contest.

“Nefellie’s title of her poem is very fitting since in Adoration, when we look at the Host, we are looking at God’s face,” he said.

Francesca Rice, principal at St. Theresa’s, said, “We embrace both Latin and poetry starting with our pre-K and Kindergarten through eighth grade according to their level.”
The curriculum has enticed parents who are interested in such a classical education. Martin Lockerd, Ph.D., UST chair of English and Associate Division Dean of Liberal Studies, said his daughters attend St. Theresa. He said the girls are also excited about participating this summer in writing programs that CLA sponsors for students ranging from third grade to 12th grade at the UST campus.

Part of the prize for the contest’s winning poets is free tuition sponsored by the Scanlan Foundation, the Strake Foundation, the Charity Guild of Catholic Women and the Archdiocese to attend the Fearless Catholic Writing Camps for third to eighth grades. There is also a High School Writers Institute June 10 through 14 for grades nine through 12.

For more information on the contests and the writing programs,