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Monday, June 13, 2011


Hello Companions of the Divine Word

I'm starting this Blog with you in mind. "You" is anyone who attended St. Michael's Mission House or Divine Word Seminary on Hemlock Lake between the years 1924-1984.

Perhaps you were a brother candidate who attended High School at Conesus as we called this lovely quiet spiritual place.

Maybe you were a clerical or lay brother novice or a clerical scholastic studying philosophy before heading to Techny for theology.

Perhaps you were a professed brother or priest of the Society of the Divine Word and taught, gave retreats, were on the road selling O-Neh-Da altar wine or recruited young members to work in the "Lord's own vineyard".

Let me tell you why I need your help.

The Divine Word Missionaries are preparing short histories of many SVD seminaries and houses of formation in the USA. I volunteered to scour the archives at Techny and compliment "official documents" with the "voice" of those who actually lived the life as a member of the society at Conesus. That's why you have received a link to this Blog from me or got an invite from another friend or associate.

Consider St. Michael's Mission House Blog as your own sandbox or scratch pad where you can add your insights into our shared lives together.

I cannot guarantee that what you share here or with me will make it into the short history but by sharing your remembrances on this Blog, all that visit this "watering hole" will benefit from your thoughts. You might even reconnect with someone you lost touch with.

Whatever your association with the SVDs or Divine Word Missionaries at Conesus I invite you to contribute your memories about the time you spent there. Also if you want to talk with me directly I would be happy to take you through some structured questions to help elicit some of your impressions.

If you have any memorabilia or artifacts such as photos, yearbooks, newspapers, etc. that you would like to share with the community I will scan relevant items and return them to you once I've photocopied them.

Finally, please let anyone who might have something to say or provide about St. Michael's on Hemlock Lake know about this Blog.

Check back periodically since I will be posting some things that I've discovered since taking on this project. For example, two weeks ago I visited the old location and had a pleasant tour of the buildings with a representative of the new owners. My next post will include a few snaps and a few items that I learned so far.

Share with us your thoughts, remembrances, artifacts, etc. about what St. Michael's Mission House (i.e. Divine Word Seminary) on Hemlock Lake meant to you.

Peace, John M. Morgan


Dolly said...

John, Congrats on getting this Blog off the ground. Hope you receive many comments from your colleagues. DLM

Ann said...


I had a long post all composed and written this morning, then lost it because of technical difficulties. Hope this arrives in one piece.

Creating this blog is a great idea, John. Thanks.

My years at Conesus were 1962-65 with John Musinsky as novice master and John Donaghey as prefect of the seniors. When I think back to my eight years with the SVD, those three at Conesus are the most unforgettable for many reasons: idealism, lofty pursuit, sincere effort, fervor, devotion, peace, tranquility, even old-fashioned discipline. However, what made the place most memorable for me was the company of the truly outstanding young men who were there with me.

So I say a warm hello to my old friends in my own class: Pete Amelse, Jim Bergin, Mike Brennan, Dom Burke, Nick DeGroot, Henry Foxhoven+,
Mike Fritzen+, Pat Gesch, Orville Haas, John Hespe, Chris Howes, Arthur Huston, Tom James, Peter Keogh, Dan Kilkeary, Cliff Labbe, Brendan Moran, Joe McGuane, Brendan Murphy, Chris Nicholaes, Patrick O'Regan, Tom Pajak, Ed Peklo, Paul Scott, Bede Smith, John Swinkels, Patrick Tuite, John Wadeson, Justin Wong and Mike Yochim.

A warm hello to my friends from the class above me: Noel Borck, Francis Breslin, Glen Coming, Ed Delaney, John Gerding, Paul Gosselin, Ron Lange, Arcade Laroche, Mike Manning, Michael Matura, Jim McGovern, Dave Mishur, John Morgan, George Mullaley, Melvin Parquet, Steve Scalese, Carl Seewald, David Streit, Tom Streveler, Phil Tennant, Brian Wagner, Norbert Walliczek and Michael Whitcraft.

Greetings to my friends from the class below me: D. Barbian, B. Burrows, J Cappa+, J Cisewski, B. Coachman, A. Dixon, G. Glasgow, T. Griffith, J. Heisig, J. Kowalski, N. Lynch, E. O'Hern, D. Pitcher, J. Rosenbaum, J. Smyczek, J. Stermer, D. Taylor, G. Ungar, J. Vorwerk, J. Weidner, C. Zenon and Father Lopez.

These names come from lists that I still have from those years. They were handed out by Frs. Musinsky and/or Donaghey. If you were in my class, I can tell you what work assignments you had during your first year novitiate, what the daily order for seminarians was, the exam schedule, the exact questions in Latin on the "Examen de scientia epistemologiae," class schedules, etc. Yes, I am a pack rat but couldn't have written my book without those memorabilia.

Once again, greetings to you all and please send a hello if you have a moment.

Emmerich Koller

Ann said...


An addendum to the list of my classmates:
Seems I missed some of the most memorable names. My apologies to those left out at first:
Robert Arndt, Bernie Chaudoir, Tom Phelan, Jim Schutzman, Al Singleton, Ed Sullivan, Norman Thiboutot.

I will also try to change Ann said (above) to Emmerich said.


peter amelse said...

Hi John: Thanks for volunteering to perform the task of writting the history of Conesus. I was there from 1962 through 1966. The "extra" year was a year of teaching in the Brother Candidate School with Jim Bergin. Father Don Strike was in charge of the Brother Candidate School.
My memories of Conesus, as was the case with all the locations I was at, was very pleasant. What was not to like? Beautiful physical setting and great camaraderie with fellow classmates. Even KP duty was fun, even though in silence, as I learned you can communicate well without talking. The time spent in prayer and reflection was difficult for me. I spent most of my time trying to figure out what the heck the others were thinking or praying about. Reading "Rodriquez" was the first of my questioning thoughts. "Why were we reading this guy? Wasn't there a more contemporary spiritual writer?"
Grape picking was memorable. What fun. Hiking down to Lake Hemlock and skiing likewise. The 30 day retreat fell into a different category. I am not a keeper, so I have no pictures or memorabilia to share.
Thanks again John for your great efforts. Pete

charles said...

When I think of Conesus – the place and the people when I was there (’57 – ’61), these words, persons and pictures come to mind: cassocks, Wilbie Wagner, stone walls and holy masons (esp. Bergin, Tom Joyce and Jonesy), Fr. Paul, “Rodriguez”, public confession of faults, skiing, & hockey, Lake Hemlock, grape picking and numerous rosaries in a myriad of languages, singing at Matt Jacoby and Wilbur Klunk gatherings, cilice and whips for your personal torture

Those were days, my friend!
Charlie Sinatra

Jim De Marco said...

I would describe my three years at Conesus (1960 - 1963) as childlike, no need to make decisions, except for the time spent between Rodgriguez and the Imitation of Christ. Also hiking, sking, swimming, climbing ice gullies,and going to bed early (while it was still light)so we could rise at 5:45 AM. Of course we had our work to do like cleaning three stories of steps and not finding any dirt when you reached the bottom. There was grape picking in the fall and tying grape vines in the spring with frozen fingers. We also enjoyed international classmates from Canada, Australia, England and Ireland. And on holidays - "Cibus Melior".

Mick Pye said...

I was at Conesus from 1962-1964.I had completed Novitiate in Donamon, Ireland and came to the States with Larry Finnegan for Philosophy.We took First Vows in September 1962.I have very positive memories.The location was perfect though rather monastic and remote.I felt welcomed and at ease immediately with wonderful guys from all over the States,and of course Pete Flannery, Chris Howes and Art Huston from Australia.Many more I could name, but Emmerich has already done a great job of that.The studies were fine but it always seemed to me to be rather strange trying to teach an already difficult subject in Latin!! Vatican 11 was taking place in Rome and there was little information being passed on to us of the vast and very welcome changes coming in the Church.In many ways we were in a transition time and I guess the SVD priests of that period were understandably not sure either just where we were heading. As I say, my memories are very positive and I made friends at Conesus, like John, who are life-long.Well done on the blog John and look forward to reading your history of Conesus. Mick Pye from Manchester, England.

Bill Burrows said...

I was there as a novice and 1st-yr philosopher 1963-65 and then back again with Pat Gesch to teach in the Brother Candidate School 1966-67 school year. Pat and I were following Jim Bergin and Pete Amelse, both of whom were superb athletes in every sport. Alas, Pat and I were less than stellar in that department. I think we disappointed the candidates when we joined their teams and were sometimes as much liabilities as assets, but they were accepting all the same.

I enjoyed novitiate immensely ... two of the best years of my life, and in later years continued to connect with John Musinsky, a friendship that I treasured greatly. The year of teaching was my first experience of living in a working SVD community as something other than a student, and I loved it.

Chester Nowicki was rector. As novices we used to mock him. When you lived with him day by day, you saw another side. Very warm and pastoral. He spent a great deal of time with Fr Loechte, for example, whose dementia was a great cross for all of us to bear. Chester, though, would change his clothes when he soiled himself, take his berating with a smile. And you would never know it till you lived in the Fathers' community.One memorable day, Fr Loechte got furious when Chester laughed too loud at a joke told by Fr Aubry. We were eating desert -- strawberry shortcake with whipped cream. Fr Loechte loaded a spoon with whipped cream and launched the cream across the table, hitting Chester between the eyes. Shocked silence from the brethren. Then Chester laughed, stood up and walked to the sink, and cleaned his face. Chester returned to the table and joined in the conversation. Later that day I was visiting Fr Aubry in his room (Chester had me taking his recollections of the history of the winery). With a big grin and in a booming voice, Hugo said, "Well, Frater, I can at least be thankful that my hearing is the only faculty that has deserted me!"

Another time the sheriff came to tell us that we could no longer swim in Lake Hemlock. You may remember that Fr Jerry Hellem could be a trifle moody and capable of dramatic flashes of anger. When he cleared his throat to talk, I recalled a recent trip to the lake we two had taken for a swim. Everyone was tense as he started to talk. "Thousands, maybe a million fish swim in it, pee in, shit in, fuck in it, and die in it! And we can't even swim in it?" The sheriff blanched and just said, "I'm not here to argue, Father, just tell you about the regulations put in place by the Water District."

It was a good year.

Terri Kaelin-Muennich said...

Hello, I am writing my father's memoires. He attended St. Michael's, a freshman in 1946. His name is James Kaelin, or "Brother Walter". I am at the point in the story of Dad telling me about St. Michael's.
Are there any pictures available out there? Dad doesn't seem to have any, and I'd like to include something in my finished product for my 10 siblings. (Yep, 11 children!)
I am looking at the notes I've taken and it looks like the freshman class with my father were the following: Warren Harding, Paul Porter, Vic Santora, Dick Blair,...there are others, I'm sure. Dick was someone Dad talks a lot about; loving the pigeon committee? I have stories if you'd like me to share.

John M. Morgan said...

Note to anyone who comes to this blog site.

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