FrancisEmma Closure – What We Know

FrancisEmma Updates



More details are surfacing about the liquidation of FrancisEmma, in Powhatan, County Virginia.  I’m not local to the Powhatan area, so I receive information in bits and pieces; each article shedding more light on the sale of this sacred property.

In a recent article published by the National Catholic Register I noticed that the Catholic Church is taking more of an attitude that Katherine Drexel’s project has been completed and that her gift of land and money should be used to rededicate its resources to “our mission: serving some of the most vulnerable people in the United States, Haiti and Jamaica.”
The people of authority over this Catholic project, want to take a slow approach to liquidation.  First they will take advantage of non-binding properties in order to capitalize on the value, as well as setting a precedence for closure. 

We do know that St. Katharine Drexel’s body will be moved to Philadelphia’s Cathedral-Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul.  As stated in the article, the archdiocese will take control of many of the archives of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Bensalem, PA.

In this article from the National Catholic Register, there was little talk of the 2,200 acres in Powhatan, County and absolutely no talk of preserving the ecological and historical wonder that has been left for mankind.

Just as important is the lack respect their actions show for the development of property once owned by the immigrant Bartholomew Stovall.  Bartholomew was an early Colonial settler and has a documented lineage of well over one million offspring.

Follow the link provided for the full article.

.  .  .

But then, Laura McFarland News Editor, Richmond Times Dispatch:

James River at Belmead

James River at Belmead

On December 17, 2006, a conservation easement was placed on 1,000 acres of the land, according to FrancisEmma’s website. The Conservation Easement is a legal agreement between the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and the co-holders of the easement—the Virginia Outdoors Foundation and the James River Association.”

A new owner would also have to be mindful of the fact that Belmead is listed on the National Register of Historic Places”, she said. “It was added in 1969.

Please view the link below for the full article.

What Now?

The future of the 2,265 acres is uncertain, because FrancisEmma no longer exists.  I don’t expect the buildings at Belmead will survive.

Sister Sandra Schmidt, spoke on the behalf of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament saying that, that they intend to sell the historic 2,200 plus acre property in Powhatan County that “has gone through incarnations as a plantation, home to two schools for black children and, more recently, has been building a reputation for its conservation and preservation efforts.”

“These buildings were built for having a large group of sisters. As time goes on, we looked at all the space that is not used, underused or just totally vacant and that is a big player in our decision,” she said.

Added to that, they are old buildings that take a great deal of maintenance, she said. The order’s goal is to “have money go into people, not keeping up old buildings.”

As for myself, I’m saddened by the decision to sell the gift of Katherine Drexel.  I feel there is still a need to maintain a presence by these loyal nuns.  I also think that if the Catholic Church would throw some of their money at this project, they wouldn’t need to go searching for another cause.  The need is already there for those in need of help.

But just as depressing is the thought that all of that wilderness area could be lost to development.  This area looks much like it did when Bartholomew Stovall wandered the banks of the James River, deciding if this was the spot where he should dig his boots in and raise a family.  But with the strike of a pen, all of this natural beauty could be lost forever.


About bartholomewstovall

Author of Bartholomew Stovall. A novel about the immigrant who came to America in 1684.
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