More than 100 Catholic students learn ‘fearless’ writing during summer camps

July 9, 2024

HOUSTON — Houston Catholic school students Eden Ting, whose parents are originally from Malaysia, and Carlos Martinez, with his mother from El Salvador, consider themselves “introverted” but are finding their voices through summer writing workshops. 

Organized by the Catholic Literary Arts (CLA), the annual workshops take place with faculty each June for a week at the University of St. Thomas. The 2024 Fearless Catholic Writing Camp, which occurred from June 10 to 14, welcomed about 90 students in grades third through eighth. 

For older students like Ting and Martinez, there is a High School Writers Institute, during that same week in June at the University of St. Thomas with about 80 students this summer, said CLA President Sarah Cortez. 

“On the final day of the workshops, parents and friends are invited to a joyous celebration of each student reading his or her best writing,” Cortez said. “These are pieces that the students have revised under the instruction and guidance from our mentor-teachers.” 

She added, “Parents say most often, ‘I didn’t know my child could write so well!” 

Ting, who began her education at St. Francis de Sales Catholic school, will start her freshman year at Cristo Rey.

“I’m a bit nervous and would rather just listen.” Ting said, “But the workshop helped me understand how the influence of those who came before me, as well as those who now surround me, helped shape my perception of the world and my place in it.”  

On the last day of the workshop, Ting read aloud her writing on “St. Lucy’s Trial,” about the fourth-century saint who was martyred after refusing to give up her faith to marry a pagan. “‘Your commitment to keep me away from my vocation — my faith — will get you punished,’” her voice trembled, but her tone was confident. 

“She watched the silent rage glisten over the governor’s eyes. She bowed her head… ‘Dear Almighty God,’ she thought, squeezing her own eyes shut, ‘please give me the strength to overcome this trial…’” 

On an opposite topic, Martinez, who had participated in these writing workshops since he attended Holy Ghost Catholic School as a 12-year-old, wrote about sports. Now attending Cristo Rey as a junior this year, his chosen piece focused on his interest and psychology in playing sports entitled “Introverted Soccer Player.” 

The teen, who plays both soccer and basketball, wrote, “Every weekend, as the sky begins to get darker and light begins to emit from the tall poles, there’s always a feeling as if I am getting punched in the stomach.”  

His excerpt continues, “I hear my father call out to me, telling me that it’s time to head to the park, which I have no problem with, but there’s always a feeling of anxiety and my nerves starting to act up.” 

The diversity of students participating in the workshops may have their religion in common but are at different transitions in culture. Both of Ting’s parents moved from Malaysia to the U.S. when they were younger with their own families in the 1980s. But Ting herself and her little brother were born in Houston. 

Ting’s mother, Edith, said, “Aside from some traditions we still observe, like Chinese New Year and other holidays with traditional foods and recipes, Eden is actually as American as can be!” 

“She barely speaks Chinese and definitely no Malay. So her writings have not reflected this particular legacy,” said her mother, who works as a program manager for an electronic manufacturer of circuit boards.  

Martinez’s mother, Heizel Rivera, said her son has explored their Latin American roots in his writing. “My family is from El Salvador, a village named Barrancones. My son has gone two times to visit his grandparents and family. He wrote about how they live off fishing and how they managed to enjoy life to its fullest, always sticking together,” she said. 

Carlos Martinez said the workshops “have helped me socially and academically because they have made me more confident in myself and helped me more in my classes like English and World History.” 

Cortez, who oversees the workshops, explained the summer classes have four components to study poetry, fiction, personal essay and sacred story. 

“In each genre, they work with mentors to identify skills and writing strategies. Then, after instruction and discussion, the students are assigned to use these styles and skills in their writing,” she said. 

For more information on the annual summer workshops and other events that CLA organizes, including an annual middle school sacred poetry contest, visit