Peter Van Lieshout is a seminarian studying for the Catholic priesthood from the diocese of Rochester, New York. Peter started his theological studies at the North American College in Rome in 2009 and created a blog named the Rochesterian Seminarian. He uses this blog to stay in touch with family and friends so that he and they can communicate with one another.
I discovered Peter’s blog searching the Internet because on Thursday, July 30, 2009 he posted a story about his connection with the SVD Seminary at Conesus. Here are Peter’s own words describing his blog post that day. You will see the pictures that Peter provided with this post at
“I originally intended to get this out before I ever left for Rome, but things got pretty busy during those last few days and this post kind of fell by the wayside. Still, I thought some of the Rochester readers would find this kind of interesting.
In the town of Conesus, about a 45-minute drive south of Rochester, lie the mostly abandoned buildings of what once was a booming seminary for the Societas Verbi Divini (SVD).
The Divine Word Fathers, as they are called here in the US, were originally founded in the Netherlands in 1875 as a missionary order. When they arrived in the Rochester Diocese and started their seminary on the slopes of Hemlock Lake, the Conesus area already had some claim to fame among Rochester Catholics. Just down the road was the former “lake cottage” of Bishop McQuaid and the O-Neh-Da winery, which he founded to produce valid altar, wines for his parishes (the D&C recently ran a story on the history of this winery). By the time the seminary was up and running, Conesus must have been something of a “hidden niche” of Catholicism amidst a Diocese which was itself growing and expanding.
In addition to the pictures I’ve included below, the seminary had ball fields and other grounds across the street, some other type of workshop down the road (I forget exactly what for) and I’m pretty sure even an outdoor, wooded “rosary walk” with large statues depicting each mystery.
Unfortunately the seminary itself closed in 1965, though I think several SVD Fathers continued staffing the building (for retreats, etc) into the 80s. Today, I think some of the rooms might be used for apartments, though as far as I can tell, the buildings seem almost totally empty.
I actually have something of a personal connection to the Societas Verbi Divini. Two of my great-uncles (my grandmother’s brothers) entered the order in the Netherlands, where they grew up, and were ordained priests some time in the 1950s. Today, one serves in Papua, New Guinea, and how’s this for an interesting side-note: I heard that in recent history, he was working in a local seminary teaching young seminarians how to speak Dutch so that they could be sent over to the Netherlands to serve there. Imagine that, a missionary priest who starts his life as a missionary to New Guinea working amongst the natives, and then lives to see the day when his home country has become the “missionary territory” with the original mission territory supplying the vocations! Sad, but true. It’s a reminder that evangelization never stops. Each generation which receives the inestimable gift of the Faith is also entrusted with the obligation to pass it on to the next. (This is an important lesson we learn from the Old Testament. The nation of Israel frequently failed to teach their children about the True God and His mighty deeds. When this happened, things fall apart afterward.)
The other of my great-uncles in the SVDs did his work in Indonesia. He had been quite sick recently, and actually, we received news just a few days before I left home that earlier this month he died. If you are reading this, would you in your kindness say a Hail Mary or an Our Father for the repose of the soul of Fr. Marinus Krol, SVD?”