March 3rd is the Feast of St. Katharine Drexel. St. Katharine’s story is an amazing journey of her call to help serve the Native American and African American peoples during a time of extreme racial injustice. St. Katharine inherited a family fortune when she found a calling to use her wealth to address injustices in society and primarily offering education to minority groups. Here in Virginia is where she and her family purchased a former slave plantation to build her first school, St. Francis de Sales School, and St. Emma Academy that educated 20,000 African-American children from 1895-1972. St. Katharine went on to build 40 missions and 23 schools serving African-American and Native American children across America, including the founding of Xavier University — first college to serve African-Americans.
Saving Belmead (St. Emma Academy) and Rock Castle (St. Francis de Sales School)
The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament are working to preserve and rebuild a holy and sacred site in Powhatan, Virginia on 2,265 acres of beautiful land along 2.5 miles of the James River (Virginia’s longest river). This land was originally a slave plantation that was purchased by St. Katherine and her family to begin her first school called St. Francis de Sales School to help educate African-American girls. The land has been entrusted to a conservation easement to keep away unwanted development. Many of the buildings have not seen much use since 1972 when the schools closed due to desegregation, and are in need of immediate repairs to help preserve them and to make into new uses for faith and education. In 2010 the bell tower collapsed on St. Francis de Sales School, and this architectural gem is well worth preserving — let’s all join together to help get the bell ringing again! Contact Save Belmead on the James — details below
Please take a look at this beautiful video of a drone flyover of the Francis-Emma property (Jonathan Luckett):
The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament have some wonderful programs that are working to preserve this property and to bring ministries of faith, education, and caring for creation to the public. Here are some of the inspiring programs:
- Thomas Berry Center — a center focused in environmental education and eco-justice.
- Preschool — serving children 3 & 4 years old — Sister Beulah Martin, SBS, M.A. Masters of Early Childhood using Workshop Way method
- Kelona Farms – organic and sustainable farming
- Belmead Stables — boarding and beautiful riding trails across property
- Belmead Mansion — rented for events and weddings.
- Sister are looking into starting a STEM School to serve needy children (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics)
The Goals and Mission of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and Francis-Emma, Inc.:
1) To raise support for the preservation of these historic buildings and property
2) To develop an awareness campaign for the human rights leadership and the remarkable contributions made to American history by Saint Katharine Drexel and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
3) To explore a variety of educational/human services and implement a “best use” strategy for the St. Francis de Sales building
NEW Museum Opening — Grand Opening Event on Saturday, March 5, 2016 2pm to Midnight
You are invited to a special event this coming Saturday:
- 2pm — Tour of NEW Preschool serving children 3 & 4 years old
- Tours of new museum in the Belmead Mansion
- 4pm Awards Ceremony — honoring Senator Tim Kaine & Governor Terry McAuliffe and alumni
- 5pm Tours of Belmead Mansion
- 7pm special Star Gazing – a comet Messier Marathon event with the Richmond Astronomical Society
NOTE: Free will offerings to Francis-Emma are greatly appreciated to help with their ministries and preservation of property.
Contact for Belmead on the James, Inc.
UPDATE September 2, 2016:
New non-profit has formed to help save the entire 2,200 acre property of Belmead.
Belmead on the James, Inc. Website: belmeadonthejames.com
New e-mail for contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW Museum at Belmead Mansion (John Clem, O.F.S. – Call To Holiness)
Happy 125 Anniversary to the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament !!!