Sugar Land Catholic school claims winning poet laureates two years in a row

May 9, 2023

From left to right, Francesca Rice, St. Theresa Catholic School in Sugar Land principal; St. Theresa teacher Samuel Klumpenhouwer, poet laureate Samantha Court with her parents Caroline and Christopher Court. (Photo courtesy of Catholic Literary Arts)

HOUSTON — Out of more than 800 Catholic school students submitting poems in an annual contest, 16 were chosen for their winning imagery at an awards ceremony sponsored by Catholic Literary Arts.

And of the dozens of local schools that participated, the outstanding poet laureate came from the same school — St. Theresa Catholic School in Sugar Land — as the previous poet laureate.

Not coincidentally, the principal of that school, Francesca Rice, spoke as keynote at the Archdiocesan Middle School Sacred Poetry Contest awards ceremony on April 19 at the University of St. Thomas after being welcomed by University President Richard Ludwick.

Describing how poetry and writing are as important to the academic curriculum as math and science, Rice told the auditorium of students, their families, school staff and supporters, “Poetry helps us see into the soul of another person.”

“Using rhythm, streaming words together, it is a tool for developing oneself — a form of self-expression of what is true, good and beautiful,” she said.

Even more to the point with society’s focus on young people’s state of mind with social media, poetry can be therapeutic for both the writer and the reader, Rice said.

“Depression and anxiety can be treated with writing and reading poetry to help express pain as well,” she said.

Sarah Cortez, an author and founder of Catholic Literary Arts, announced this year’s theme to focus on the Luminous Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of Jesus’ Baptism in the Jordan, the Wedding at Cana, the Proclamation of the Kingdom, the Transfiguration and/or the Institution of the Eucharist.

This year, 16 winners from Archdiocesan Catholic middle schools — students from sixth, seventh and eighth grade — won first, second and third place prizes, plus honorable mentions.

Each of their poems were printed in an anthology booklet. Each student also won tuition to attend the Fearless Catholic Writers summer workshop on the St. Thomas campus.

Samantha Court, an eighth grader who won first place from St. Theresa Catholic School in Sugar Land, was selected as the Poet Laureate for the year, winning $500.

Writing her poem titled “Amor in Amnis” (Latin for “Love in the Stream”), Court said she pictured a father who had witnessed Jesus’ Baptism describing the event to his young son:

“But what we had not realized —
Dear boy, I hope that you’ll believe
A Higher One had exercised
His love in form of man who’d leave
But not before there came the day
When love incarnate did achieve
As dipped beneath the waves of grey
And skies threw open, wings glowed bright,
To open clouded eyes that day.”

Court said, “I wanted to convey the beauty of Baptism and the relationship between Father and Son with a personal touch.”
Her teacher, Samuel Klumpenhouwer, teaches theology, Latin, English and Liberal Arts at St. Theresa and also taught last year’s Poet Laureate Maria Jesko.

Dr. Debra Haney, Archdiocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, thanked all those involved, including UST, the Scanlan Foundation, which underwrote the program, and the Catholic Literary Arts.

Recognizing the growing trend of naming poet laureates in the U.S., Dr. Haney told Court she is “following a long tradition.”

There was a second poetry award ceremony for the LUX poetry contest for independent Catholic schools and home-schooled students on April 26, also at UST. Winners also received free tuition for a Catholic writing summer camp.

The poet laureate for the LUX contest is eighth grader and home-schooled student Nina Marinelli for the poem “Light Speaks in the Luminous Mysteries.”

An excerpt:

“The Light of God illuminates, giving to us saving grace.
Sinners, unworthy to receive, His body and blood.
A mystery so deep, when He says to us, ‘Do this in remembrance of me.’”