St. Francis/ St. Emma is located on the James River in Powhatan County, VA. St. Francis is also referred to as Mount Pleasant or “Rock Castle.” It was the site of the high school for girls. St. Emma is also referred to as Belmead and was the site of the school for boys. They are separated by Deep Creek which rises in Appomattox and empties into the James River at this site.

The 2265 acre property is owned by the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament of Bensalem, Pennsylvania, a congregation of Catholic vowed religious women. The Sisters were founded by St. Katharine Drexel in 1891 for the benefit of Native and African American people.

Mission of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
As Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, we believe God calls us to be a sign in the world of the power of the Eucharistic Christ to effect unity and community among all peoples.
Guided by the spirit of Katharine Drexel, we are called to share the gospel message with the poor, especially among the Black and Native American peoples, and to challenge the deeply rooted injustice in the world today. For more information about the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament visit their website at

FrancisEmma, Inc.
In 2004 the Sisters formed a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit corporation to preserve and protect these lands, develop religious and educational programs, foster eco social justice and help support the mission of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.

FrancisEmma, Inc. is responsible for the planning and management for all aspects of the St. Francis/ St. Emma lands. It operates under a lease agreement with the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, and is accountable to the Sisters for the well being of the corporation. It is financially responsible for all areas of planning and management, and receives no subsidy from the parent organization, the diocese of Richmond or any other Catholic Church agency. The Board of Directors is legally responsible for all affairs of FrancisEmma, Inc.

The Board of Directors Membership
Jennie A. Shuklis, MBA
Board Chair
Executive Director for the Fluvanna County, Virginia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Her experience includes many years of nonprofit management and business management to include running an IT consulting company. She received her MBA from the College of William and Mary, and her BAS from the University of Richmond Summa Cum Laude. Her professional affiliations include the Beta Gamma Sigma business honor society, the Charlottesville and Fluvanna Chamber of Commerce, and she was a member of Leadership Charlottesville Class of 2012.
Sr. Anne Marie Mack, CBS, MSN, BSN
Board Vicechair
Bon Secours Health Systems, Senior Vice President Former President of Bon Secours Sisters in the USA Affiliations: VA Prevention of Human Trafficking, Board UNANIMA, Board Safe Harbor, Board Bon Secours Ministries, Board Bon Secours Richmond Healthcare Systems.
Earl Wilkins, CBC, St. Emma Military Academy Alum
Executive Committee, Finance Chair
A 1965 graduate of St. Emma Military Academy, Virginia Union University, University of Virginia. He served in many financial capacities including the Director of Finance of two governmental agencies and Vice President and Comptroller of Consolidated Bank and Trust Company, the nation’s first and wholly owned minority bank. Until retiring from the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2009, he was a Certified Government Financial Manager specializing in accounting, budgeting, reporting and statistical analysis. He is currently a Certified Biblical Counselor and co-owner of WaySeeker® Woods Garden and Nursery in Aylett, Virginia.
Sr. Jean Marie Craig, SBS, Ed,D. (Founding member of FrancisEmma, Inc.)
Executive Committee, Secretary of Board
University of Southern MS, Northern AZ University, Xavier University, Camillus School of Nursing. Supervisor of Student Teachers Health and Physical Education at Xavier University of Louisiana; Associate Professor/Director of Health and Physical Education. Taught at St. Francis de Sales. Presentations: “Games to Make Everyone Happy” at the Share the Wealth Conference, Jekyll Island,. Awards: The International Women’s Leadership Association; International Honor Society in Education Kappa Delta Kappa; Charles D. White Award National Ethnic Minority. In 2013: Pathfinders Award from the National Association of Guiding Women’s Sports, The International Association , Kappa Delta Pi. Honored at Wellness Week at Xavier University.
Eileen Burke, St. Francis de Sales School Alum
Housing Counselor, Administer. Philadelphia, PA., Realtor
Maintains a caseload of homeless indivituals and families needing housing assistance. Provides counseling, information and referral, advocacy and other assistance as needed to procure permanent housing. Graduate of St. Francis, coordinator of the annual alumni volunteer day of service. Strong loyalty and knowledge of the mission and ministry of the Sisters and FrancisEmma, Inc.
Joe Elton, Director of Virginia State Parks
Director of Virginia State Parks
Joe Elton has served five Virginia governors as State Parks Director. He began his service to the state park system in 1994. Joe is a past president of both the National Association of State Park Directors and the Association of Southeastern State Parks. He is currently president of the America’s State Parks Foundation. He is a graduate of Ohio State University and has resided in Powhatan county since 1995. He and his wife Patty have two adult sons, Alexander Joseph and Lance David. “Virginia State Parks are a therapeutic tonic for the mind, body and spirit and a critical part of a healthy life style.”
Sr. Judith Franz, SBS, MA, MST, MLS
San Miguel Catholic College Prep, Tucson, AZ: Librarian and Information Specialist
Teacher in Christian Brothers Cristo Rey Network; 35 years teaching in SBS schools on Native American reservations and in inner city schools. Administration, supervision and accreditation experience in education. 20 years Captain and Deputy Commander of Cadets in the Civil Air Patrol. Specialist in integration of curriculum and technology. Interests: reading, exercise, nature and the environment, music and baking.
Sr. Donna Gould, SBS, PhD,
Ph.D, University of Louisiana. MA, University of Notre Dame. BA, Xavier University of Louisiana. Assistant Professor of English and Director of Secondary Education Xavier University of Louisiana. Ten years prior to XU taught English in secondary education with Native Americans in the Southwest, Santa Fe, NM; Specialty areas: American Literature, Women Studies, American Folklore focusing on Native and African American Mythology. Summer 2013, Underground Railroad at Belmead, Student Research
Billy Kornegay, PhD., P.E.D.
Retired Environmental System Engineer
Experienced in industry (Westvaco), academia (VMI and Georgia Tech), and the consulting field (Parsons). B.S. in Civil Engineering from the Virginia Military Institute, a M.S in Water Resources from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. in Environmental Systems Engineering from Clemson University. Served 14 years in the Virginia National Guard, US Army and the US Army Reserve. Member of the Water Environment Federation, American Water Works Association, the American Legion, and numerous organizations that deal with heritage or history including the Powhatan Historical Society, the Powhatan Civil War Roundtable, and the WW II Roundtable of Central Virginia.
Gordon Lohr, Restoration Advisor
Historian, historic restoration specialist
Bridgewater College, Graduate work: University of VA, Old Dominion University. Author: The Eastern Shore, VA Raised Panel Furniture 1730-1830. Realtor: Historic Homes, Lecturer, Educator. Owner of Black Angus Farm, Former Administrator, Preservation Virginia. Board membership: Eastern Shore, Virginia Historical Society, Hanover Tavern Foundation, College of William and Mary, Green Hill Church Restoration. Antequarians Society, Goochland Historical Society. Windows restoration at Belmead Mansion. Belmead Restoration Tech Team Leader
Sr. Mary Anne Poole, SBS
Educational administration and teaching
Education: Xavier University of LA, Temple University, Manhattan College of NYC Currently teaching math at Smithson Craighead School, Nashville; former principal and teacher in SBS inner city shools in: New Orleans, Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland and Sante Fe. Member of Xavier University Board of Trustees.
Sr. Sandra Schmidt, SBS
Treasurer and Financial Administrator of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament
Education: Xavier University of Louisiana. MS, Fordham University. Member of the SBS Leadership/Administrative Team. LCWR:Leadership Council of Women Religious. CORT: Congregational Religious Treasurers; RCRI: Resource Canter for Religious Institutes.
Vernell I. Straughter, MSW
Master of Social Work/Administration, Wurzweiler School of Social Work, New York. Experience: Certified Social Worker, VA. John Tyler Community College; Adjunct professor, Field Supervisor at Virginia Union University; and Virginia State University. Various administrative positions in City of New York Human Resource. City of Richmond: Family Ties administrator. Received national recognition for quality of work. Affiliations: Community Leader, Board of Directors, FrancisEmma, Inc., Central Virginia Health Planning Agency, Capitol District of VA Council on Social Work; Volunteer work in Drug Treatment Facility at Goochland Women’s Correctional Facility, Powhatan/
Demetrius Venable, PhD
Professor of Physics in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Howard University.
Principal Investigator and Deputy Director of NASA funded Howard University Research Center, Beltsville Center for Climate System Observation, specialty is optical physics. Education & awards: Virginia State University in Physics; American University. Awards: NASA Distinguished Public Service Award, among many other. Selected university positions: Hampton University dean, provost, vice president for research. Known especially for his dedication to excellence in behalf of underrepresented minorities. STARGAZING at FrancisEmma, Inc.
Michael D. Williams, Financial Management
Director of Wealth Management, Stellar One
Financial manager. Education; University of Virginia, Economics. Masters of Business Administration from the Colgate Darden Graduate , University of Virginia. Vice president, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. Board membership of the following organizations: Bon Secours Joint Hospital, Richmond Estate Planning Council, The United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg, Warminster Canterbury Foundation.
Sr. Maureen T. Carroll, SBS, MA, CFRE
Executive Director
Master of Philanthropy and Development, St. Mary University, Winona, MN Master of Arts in Education, Certified Fundraising Executive. Experience: Sister of the Blessed Sacrament, Director of Development, School Administration, Teacher, President of Workshop Way, Inc., Past administrative team Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Executive Director, FrancisEmma, Inc. Affiliations: Association of Fundraising Professionals, past Powhatan Free Health Clinic
Sr. Elena Henderson, SBS, RN, MSW
Administrative Team
Catholic University of America; Chaplaincy Pastoral Education; Nursing Home Admnistration, SRO housing for homeless, Washington DC; residential drug treatment for HIV+/AIDS; Waste Water Treatment Systems, West Virginia; Pathworks Counselor Training; Director Ministry and Outreach, St. Francis Medical Center; Bon Secours Chaplaincy; Social Work supervision. NASW, ACSW, Sigma Theta Tau, Pathwork. Nature photographer. FrancisEmma, Inc. Treasurer.
Sr. Angela T. Lydon, SBS, PhD
Administrative Team
Assistant Superintendent, Diocese of Memphis; Director Center for Catholic Education, University of Dayton; Tenured Faculty Graduate School, Xavier University of Louisiana; Administrator, teacher, poet; Specialty area: ecozoic cosmology for curriculum. Current Projects at Belmead: Stars, Curriculum, Planting Trees for the 7th Generation, Nature and Creativity. Workshop Way administrative team.
Sr. Jean Ryan, SBS, MA
Administrative Team
Masters degree from St. Mary of the Woods, In Earth Literacy. Master Gardener, Master Naturalist. Director of FrancisEmma Community Garden. Sr. Jean manages the grounds at St. Francis/St. Emma. She works with over a hundred volunteers including conservation groups to: develop wetland education trails, identify flora and fauna species, set up a bird banding program. She works with the Audubon Society members to make an inventory of bird species that reside or migrate through the property; assists a local 4-H group to experience the ecology of the land. She is currently working with engineers to assess current conditions of the roads and bridges.
Mr. Rodney Jackson, MA
Consultant for Major Gifts Direction
Boston College, MA. Senior Fundraiser, writer, publisher, consultant for Development/ Philanthropy. Author, A Philanthropic Covenant with Black America, Black Philanthropy Newsletter. Founder, president and CEO for The National Center for Black Philanthropy. Consultant and trainer for Milton Eisenhower Foundation. National Black MBA Association, Endowment for African American Organizations. Director of Development: The Communications Consortium Media Center, Africa American Institute, Judge Baker Children’s Center. Currently, consultant for FrancisEmma, Inc. Major Gifts Direction.
Patricia C. Gunn, JD
Dr. Patricia C. Gunn, a graduate of St. Francis de Sales High School, is an Associate Professor of African American Studies at Ohio University in Athens, OH. She holds a BA in Political Science from Fisk University and a J.D. from Boston College Law School. Dr. Gunn is highly experienced attorney and educator. She has 38 years experience in the legal profession and 23 years of experience in higher education. Prior to joining the faculty of Ohio University, she served as an attorney with the United States Department of Justice in a number of capacities, including Special Assistant to the Solicitor General and as a Senior Trial Attorney in the Office of International Affairs. Chairperson of FrancisEmma Major Gifts Direction: “...unto the 7th Generation.”

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