Working with the St. Michael’s Mission House Numbers

SVD Members at St. Michael's Mission House (1925-1955)

The History of St. Michael’s Mission House contains an appendix showing the distribution of members by departments from 1924 through 1984.  Year 1957 saw the largest number of residents at Conesus.  These 214 members represented 15 priests, 15 brothers, 59 scholastics in two college classes, 60 clerical novices in two classes, 27 brother novices or brother postulants and 38 high school brother candidates.  The information in the appendix chart is derived and summarized from SVD Catalogus data over the same time period.

I developed this chart for the Conesus History to indicate what missionary training was going on at St. Michael’s Mission House during selected timeperiods.

Purpose and/or Function of St. Michael’s Mission House

Time Period

Years in Existence

Winery & Farm



Belated Vocations School



Novitiate for Brothers



Brother Candidates’ School



Novitiate for Clerics



Junior or Senior College for Clerics



SVD Members at St. Michael's Mission House (1956-1984)

The summarized SVD Catalogus data in the appendix also shows that after 1969 none of the traditional training of SVD missionaries took place at Conesus.  The priests and brothers in residence at Conesus continued their missionary work in apostolates that were no longer directed primarily at the training of younger candidates for SVD missionary careers.  This freedom gave the community opportunities to focus on creative ways to use their talents and charisms along with the buildings and location to provide a place for new ministries.

Finally if you look carefully at the appendix chart you will notice that it does not contain personnel information for the years between 1929-1935 and 1942-1946.  During the years 1929-1935 there were no SVDs living at Conesus.  Fr. Provincial Aldoph Burgmer dissolved the SVD community and reassigned the remaining 3 members (1 priest and 2 brothers) in July 1928.  He and his council decided it was simply beyond the Society’s means at that time to make a success of the O-Neh-Da wine label.

The data missing from my chart and from the SVD Catalogus for the time period 1942-1946 is due, I am told, because during WWII information was not systematically collected by many of the SVD communities and/or was not consolidated and distributed up and down the line.

However, you can read about all the exciting events during these two time slices as well as other happenings during the 60+ years of the SVDs at Conesus in the History of St. Michael’s Mission House.  This particular history along with the histories of other Divine Word locations is planned for publication in a digital format in the near future.  I will post a notice when the complete histories are available so please frequently check back here at this blog from time to time.

If you have any information, stories or photos to share about your time at Conesus please contact me John M. Morgan at or by cell at 404-392-8075.

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Buildings Announce the Arrival of the Word

The 1936-1937 Conesus House Journal briefly provides details on the arrival of the first students and their living arrangements, list of seminary faculty, brothers and number of students.  Here are a few selected items.

“First students entered October 1936.  They went to school at the white house (one-fourth mile south of present building) and slept at the Bishop’s House (below the winery and Goering’s residence).   In November 1937 students move into new Community Building.  Members of the faculty are:  Fathers Deppe, Thunich, Hafner (prefect of boys), Sieber and Rabe. Brothers are Fridolin, Francis Ganger, Willibrord, Herman, Corsinus, Joachim, Ignatius, Conrad and Xavier.”

1944 saw the erection of the modern farm buildings.  Construction of the Seminary Chapel started in 1946 and so by that year, St. Michael’s had acquired over half of its present structures.  During these years the winery had also been modernized with up-to-date machinery.  Keeping pace with the construction of the various buildings the Society repurposed the mission and functions many times during its sixty-year history at St. Michael’s.

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Brothers, Priests and Sisters Exemplify the Missionary Ideal

Exemplifying The Missionary Life

In 1957 Fr. Casimir Murawski, Rector at St. Michael’s Mission House, provided this assessment of the state of St. Michael’s Mission House.

“This report is a story of spiritual, material achievement and moral encouragement.  God has blessed the humble efforts of superiors and subjects alike beyond the expectations of even the most optimistic.  We have at Conesus the following members and departments:  15 Fathers, 15 Brothers, 59 Juniors, 60 Clerical Novices, 14 Brother Novices, 9 Brother Postulants and 25 Candidates. Together with 8 nuns who staff our kitchen and laundry, the community numbers 205 members.

The Fathers – Great credit for the high spiritual and intellectual atmosphere at Conesus must be given to the devoted and hard-working priests.  They are an inspiration and a source of genuine joy to the younger members and the aspirants of the Society.  To me personally they are faithful cooperators in the manifold tasks of our variegated institution.

The Brothers – The professed Brothers no less contribute generously and effectively to the high pitch of religious and missionary fervor as well as to the material prosperity of the Seminary. Under the superb guidance and leadership of the veteran Father Augustine Loechte they go about their daily duties with excellent supernatural motivation.”

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Students at St. Michael’s Mission House

Students Preparing to Become Missionaries

There were different academic and training programs at Conesus depending on whether you were preparing for the missions as an SVD brother or priest.  However, both seminarians and those in the brothers’ formation program participated in similar sports, household maintenance and service work.

Both groups played ice hockey, baseball, basketball, handball, soccer, etc. They hiked, swam and fished.  In addition all worked at harvest time in the vineyards, pitched in on the farm and orchards, worked in the kitchen and laundry supporting the nuns, served food in the refectories in addition to maintaining the overall cleanliness of their own living spaces.

If you have any information, stories or photos to share about your time at Conesus please contact me John M. Morgan at or by cell at 404-392-8075.

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Purpose and Topics Covered in History of St. Michael’s Mission House

Bishop's Residence Occupied and Improved by SVDs 1934-1936

Now that you know about and have seen the title page of the short history of St. Michael’s Mission House at Conesus, New York you might wonder about the plan behind this endeavor.

Actually the 49-page history of Conesus is only a small part of a much larger history project sponsored by the Divine Word Missionaries (SVDs) of the Chicago Province.  You can read about the initial plan and kick off in this On the Shelf Newsletter published by the Robert M. Myers Archives of the Chicago Province of the Divine Word Missionaries.  Please click on the link below.

In short here is the project plan.  To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Chicago Province, SVD “scribes” will write the histories of the province’s houses and districts. The compiled histories will be published internally. The idea evolved to include the closed communities and to extend back to 1899. SVD confreres will write the histories with assistance from fellow community members. The Robert M. Myers Archives will supply historical records, and members of the communities will supply memories and add the meat to the bones of the dry records. Fr. Elmer Nadicksbernd of the West Virginia District is the SVD Coordinator who will pull the histories together for publication

 What Topics are covered in the History of St. Michael’s Mission House?

Here is a list of topics I covered organized by five Sections including an Appendix of Community Member over the 62 years that the SVDs resided at Conesus and some photo collages showing seminarians, priest, brothers, sisters and buildings.

St. Michael’s Mission House at Conesus, New York

Section 1 (Pages 1-9): The Bishop’s Farm (1872-1924); Rejected in Rochester (1912); SVD Assume Ownership of the Bishop’s Farm (1924-1934); What Do We Name This Place?; Arrival and Departure of the First Band of Brothers (1924-1928); The Caretaker Years with No SVD Members on Site (1928-1935); The Distillery Corporation with Dangelmaier and Feige’s Involvement (1932-1935)

Section 2 (Pages 10-20): Starting a New Chapter as St. Michael’s Mission House (1935); Why was the Seminary Dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel?; More About the Return of the SVDs to Conesus in 1935; Reinvigorating the O-Neh-Da Winery (1935); Finding the Best Place on the Property to Erect St. Michael’s Mission House; Seminary for “Belated” or “Delayed” Vocations (1936)

Section 3 (Pages 21-30): Growth and Development Between 1940-1960; Preparing the Next Generation of SVD Missionary Brothers (1947-1969); Br. James (Maurice Djadoo) from Togo to Conesus and on to Ghana (1959-2012); Training and Activities at St. Michael’s Mission House (1936-1969); Preparing the Next Generation of SVD Missionary Priests (1950-1965); “The Legend” Celebrates 60th Anniversary of Ordination (1966)

Section 4 (Pages 31-40): After the Seminarians and Brothers in Training Relocated (1970-1984); Proposed Business Offer for Rest and Convalescent Home (1970); Looking for Additional Creative Opportunities (1970 onward); St. Michael’s Agricultural Farm for Boys (1973); New Forms of Ministry to Serve the Church (1974-1984); Community Response; SVD Sign Lease with Dr. Cera to Operate Holistic Health Center (1978-1983); Divine Word Seminary Sold to Trinity Institute (1985); Divine Word Missionaries Leave St. Michael’s and the Rochester Diocese (1986)

Section 5 (Pages 41-49): What Happened After the SVDs Left Conesus? (1986-2012); Humanitarian International Service Group (2001-2012); O-Neh-Da Vineyards and Wines (1872-2012); Alumni Remember St. Michael’s Mission House (2011); Postscript with a Special Note and Thanks (Epiphany 2012); Appendix A: 1924 to 1984 Distribution of SVD Members at St. Michael’s Mission House; Student Photos (28 images); Priests, Brothers and Sisters Photos (10 images); Buildings (14 images)

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History of St. Michael’s Mission House Cover Page

The cover of the History of St. Michael’s Mission House (1924-1986) appears on the upper left.  The top photo shows the 1941 Divine Word community of priests, brothers and “belated” seminarians with Fr. Hugo Aubry at the center.  The 1961 photo at the bottom shows 3 classes of seminarians novices and scholastics.  The 1941 community of 54 members was composed of 10 priests, 9 brothers and 35 seminarians whereas twenty years later the 1961 community grew to 173 members with 14 priests, 22 brothers, 27 clerical scholastics, 32 clerical novices, 13 brother novices and 65 brother candidate high schoolers. Click on the image to see a large picture.

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Thanks with a Request

I originally created this blog to give colleagues a chance to share their thoughts and insights about their experiences of living as members and members-in-training of the Divine Word Missionaries at St. Michael’s Mission House, Conesus, New York.

The pole vaulting  seminarians in the upper left corner were “belated students” who started to arrive at Conesus in 1936 when Archbishop Mooney of Rochester gave his blessing to a seminary in his diocese “for training young men for the foreign missions”.

I’m most appreciative of the many thoughtful comments that “socii” or companions of the Divine Word have shared.  I’m also thankful of the interest and comment of others such as a daughter of a “socius” who wanted to fill in some of the missing pieces in her father’s memoirs.

With that in mind I want to let anyone who comes to this site know that I have finished a 50-page history of the SVD community at Conesus and would be delighted to share this with those interested, if you would promise to offer your constructive criticism and thoughts about how to make this history better and more inclusive.

I recently turned the first version of this history over to Marcia Stein, Techny archivist, but I’m already working on a revision and value you as a collaborator.  Let me know your thoughts by sending me an email at

Peace and blessings on you and those close to you.  John M. Morgan

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