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  1. Katreader
    December 16, 2013 @ 10:00 am

    I remember when I first came upon this place-I was unable to find out much about it. Thanks so much for sharing your discovery,

    • Chris
      January 3, 2014 @ 10:41 am

      You got it! It seems like more people than we realized are in the same position you are. This was a fun one to discover for ourselves as well!

  2. mike c
    December 16, 2013 @ 10:33 am

    Another great article.
    I remember being there probably 60 years ago.
    An aunt lived by the corner of Mission Rd. and so we would visit, and then once we went up the road to St. Michael’s Mission. That’s what it was called then.
    And I remember walking around through the grottos, I thought of them as caves, and seeing the religious items that were there.
    My mother was pretty religious so we looked at everything.
    I somehow think I may have some photos in all the stuff from my parents but could never find them now.
    It was a unique place. And your article adds a lot to a forgotten history.

    • Chris
      January 3, 2014 @ 10:43 am

      Thanks Mike! It looks quite different today than it did 60 yrs ago of course. I wish I could say I had the same memories that you seem to have. I’m sure it was fantastic back then!

  3. Jim
    December 16, 2013 @ 7:21 pm

    I believe that some of the old grotto statues have been purchased by the Mercerdarians in LeRoy. who, by the way, will be closing their house in LeRoy, but will continue to staff the parish. Sad.

    • Chris
      January 3, 2014 @ 10:45 am


      Thanks for your comment about this! We hadn’t done much research on the Mercerdarians, but since you’ve tipped us off, it’s been some interesting reading. We also gave your tip about them possibly owning some grotto pieces to the current owners of the Mission. It’d be great if they could make it back to their original home!

  4. Rev. Eleanor Celentani
    December 30, 2013 @ 4:40 pm

    I did not recognize the name, the Mission, but when one of your readers commented that it used to be called St. Michael’s Mission, that did ring a bell. I had heard of this place but had not visited myself. I once knew a priest from the Society of the Divine Word and I think he might have stayed there for a while. Your story was extremely interesting and informative. I understood the feeling of sadness too. You are right that probably very few people now would know this place existed at all. Quite a lesson in letting go. Good to know that another spiritual group is working on recycling and renewing it. Thank you for another great article.

    • Chris
      January 3, 2014 @ 10:49 am

      Hadn’t thought of this as a lesson in letting go. As always, you offer a great perspective that I hadn’t considered.

      Part of the reason we’ve enjoyed doing this project so much is because so many communities have had to let go of some great parts of their history. We’ve had a lot of wonderful experiences in checking these places out before they’re gone!

  5. Lara
    January 13, 2014 @ 9:27 am

    Thank you for this information. I grew up basically right around the corner from the mission on Marrowback and it was nice to finally find out what had been going on with the mission. Tho’ I did not attend services regularly at the Mission, I had been to a few. It was a beautiful chapel and well taken care of the brothers who resided there at the time. The grotto that you can see from the road was just as lovely, coming back as an adult it was sad to see that everything had been removed from the grotto. My brothers and I and many of the “neighborhood” kids played little league baseball across the street in the field for a couple of years before practices were moved to another location.
    Thanks again for the information! Truly and adventure to get a tour of the place!

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:31 pm

      Thanks Lara!! So glad you found this post and it brought up so many great memories for you! We appreciate the comment and feedback greatly!!

  6. Dan Matteson
    January 13, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

    My family and I grew up 2 houses down from the Mission. My brother and I spent a lot of summer days in the Grotto’s and inside the mission playing with some of the kids living there. A lot of memories! Thanks for the research.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:32 pm

      That sounds awesome Dan! Seems like it would’ve been a beautiful area to have grown up!

  7. Chris Matteson
    January 13, 2014 @ 1:13 pm

    Great article and thanks for the pictures. As my brother stated we would spend our days running and playing in the grottos which at the time was full of statues. My brother would always go across the street and grab grapes from the winery and throw them at myself and some of the children that lived there. He hit one kid in the eye, Justin I believe his name was, I never saw him again.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:41 pm

      Thanks Chris!

      I’m sure it was fun playing back in the fields and exploring back then. Hope Justin never had long term vision trouble due to that grape!

      • Timothy J Kraemer
        April 23, 2020 @ 5:11 pm


        I was a student there from 1963 to 1996. I help build some of the Grottos. Also we had to prune and pick the grapes. I was a senior in high school and our graduating class was only 8(1964) and then as a Novice from 1964 to 1966. I wish I could remember all the names of my graduating class.

        We had cattle, pigs, and a large vegetable garden. In winter we used to ski down the pump house road to the lake. Once a year we would have a Festival is the summer to raise funds and give grotto tours.

  8. greg
    January 13, 2014 @ 1:46 pm

    This is a great article and apparently spreading on facebook like crazy today. I remember paintballing with friends who lived right across the road from there and exploring the grottos late at night. I’ve never seen the inside before today. It was always rumored a crazy cult lived there. I’m actually glad you dispelled that rumor that has been with me for ages.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

      Greg, we’ve gotten a TON of hits in the last 24 hours. I know they were coming from Facebook but not sure what pages on FB–I’d LOVE to know cause because on our hits it was clearly being shared like crazy as you mentioned!!

      Really glad that so many people are finding great memories here with this!!

      • greg
        January 17, 2014 @ 5:10 pm

        just the power of this social media i guess … also because everyone from this area knows about the mission yet few know actually what it was/is ….. its a landmark we all know and are interested in …. i guarantee you guys will hit gold again like you did here ….. i was looking back at other sites and comments and i think the comments you got from here blew away all the others …. you may consider a revisit and get together some of the people who were here in its heyday and get some good stories

  9. Helen Wiedemann
    January 13, 2014 @ 2:42 pm

    When the Mission was a school for boys the property was called Saint Michael Mission. There is a farm that was connected to the mission. The milking barn is now a private residence.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:43 pm

      Thanks Helen!

  10. sarah
    January 13, 2014 @ 2:58 pm

    good know who you are

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:44 pm

      From the looks of the comments here, it sounds like EVERYone had good times!

  11. Carole
    January 13, 2014 @ 3:37 pm

    I am so happy yo see so much about St Michaels Mission. When I was a child in the late 40s or early 50 my family visited the misson and we walked the grottos and the stations of the cross.It was awe inspiring even for a little girl around 10 years old. I am thrilled someone is doing some refreshing work. I live within 50 miles of the mission so I will be watching

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:50 pm

      Thanks Carole! I bet it was a fantastic to be there back then! We are just as thrilled that someone is working on restoring it. Glad you found us!

  12. Shana
    January 13, 2014 @ 3:38 pm

    Wow! Finally an article online about the mission! My mother worked at the Eagle Crest Vineyards across the street form here. She did extensive research on here as well being the former town historian. I remember the story of the child who had died from a tooth infection because the church did not believe in formal medical treatment. We went to the grottos when we were younger and I re beer being terrified of the grotto of agony. It had a the crucified Jesus along with a huge snake sculpture around the entrance. Inside was a statue of Mary lit up with red lights. For me being young, it scared me! Over on the winery side there are cave like structures that are still visible. Broken statues still lay in the debris of a fallen she’d.I believe there is a record of true history kept here, but no one really wants to share. It’s kind of a hidden town secret.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:54 pm


      What a great connection to the history! I wish we had access to some of your mom’s info while we were trying to do research–there wasn’t much that we could find that was easily accessible! Sounds like she would’ve been THE person to chat with!

      The ‘Grotto of Agony’ definitely even just sounds scary. I imagine it would’ve put fear in to the mind of a child!

    • Brenda Chesney Eddy
      August 18, 2015 @ 8:28 am

      Great article, Chris. I am once-again the Conesus Town Historian. Feel free to contact me at I worked as Asst Manager at Eagle Crest Vineyards from 1994-2002. In 2000 I contributed the article, “History of the Divine Word Seminary in Conesus (St. Michael’s Mission)” in the book, Celebrating Our Past – Livingston County in the Twentieth Century – published in 2000 by Bill Cook (SUNY Geneseo History Professor) with help from the Livingston County Historians. Much of the winery is original, such as the 3-floor hand-operated elevator, original barn beams and hitching ring when the horses brought the grapes on wagons and the original wooden casks and barrels. ….Check it out! Interesting trivia: when I worked there, a film crew came to the Mission and considered making a ” thriiler” movie starring Sharon Stone, but another location was chosen!

  13. Judy Keysa
    January 13, 2014 @ 5:22 pm

    I remember St. Michael’s Mission well – As a child I lived in Rochester and was a member of St. Boniface Church. When I was a teenager in the early 80’s I attended retreats hosted by the Rochester Catholic Diocese thru our church for a couple summers. I remember walking the beautiful grottos where you said a special prayer at each statue, having evening bonfires (across the street from the mission we followed a path that lead to Hemlock Lake and there was a permanent fire pit), eating our meals in a grand dining room, sleeping in a room with three other girls (we all had little cot type beds). After I married and moved away from my childhood home, my parents moved to Conesus Lake, that is not far from the Mission. Some time near 1990 they read where the mission owners were having an estate type sale and everything would be sold. My parents bought a beautiful teak wood chandler that hung in the great room, several large wooded mirrors and other various items. Still today at 82, my mother enjoys the chandler that illuminates her cathedral room that over looks Conesus Lake.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:56 pm

      Judy! What a great story! My father and aunt went to St Boniface school and lived there in the South Wedge as well. It’s on our list to visit someday for the purposes of this blog. In fact, I even have some photos that my grandfather took when it burned down in the 50’s–looking forward to sharing those.

      The chandelier sounds like an absolutely wonderful keepsake!

  14. Paul
    January 13, 2014 @ 5:26 pm

    Thank you for this great summary on the Mission. It is a remarkable sight from the road and I would love to see the grottos and buildings.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:40 pm

      Paul–the current group is looking to provide tours in the future, hopefully they’ll be able to get those up and running soon!!

  15. Marie
    January 13, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

    I went to Jr. High at the mission. My school district rented the buildings for a short time. I loved going to school there and so did most of my peers. There seem to be fewer episodes of difficult behaviours, many believed it was due to the location as students with difficult behaviours were sometimes allowed to walk the grounds to “cool off”. I have some great memories of that time and not just because of my age as I, like most people at that age, was going through my own growing pains. It obviously brings peace to many. Great article, thanks for the walk down memory lane.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:39 pm


      I can definitely see how the grounds at the Mission at one time would’ve had a tremendous calming affect on anyone in need of a tranquil experience. Glad you came across the piece and enjoyed. And, we’re glad you commented and said hello!!

  16. Steve
    January 13, 2014 @ 7:36 pm

    I also attended Jr high at the mission and before and after that I worked part time at the vineyard and got to know a number of the Catholic Brothers who were studying to be priests who ran the farm operation. If I remember correctly the brothers pretty much supported themselves with their own food from the farm. I enjoyed many a lunch with the brothers and have some great memories of “the Mission”

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:36 pm

      Steve, that sounds like an absolutely incredible set of memories to have. Sounds like it would’ve been an honor to have been in their company!

  17. Sheila
    January 13, 2014 @ 8:39 pm

    I lived near the Mission as we called it, and my husband and I built a home, raising our four children there for 19 years. The Mission was a beautiful place with well kept grounds.We also attended a few of the services there and some of the brothers were very special and we had become friends with them. They also let us cut some firewood on the property of the tress that were dead. . When I was 20, I worked at the winery in the vineyard. It was quite an experience. When I was a teenager and lived in Hemlock, I remember the young boys who went to the Mission which schooled the boys and I remember they would make the very long trek into town, by my home about once every three months or so. I am very glad to know the history of such a beautiful place. Thank you for a wonderful and enlightening article .

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

      Thanks for your memories and history Sheila! It must’ve been a really neat place to be around back then. Really glad you enjoyed reading this piece!

  18. Sadie Grace
    January 13, 2014 @ 9:10 pm

    I see the Mission every morning because I live directly opposite of it on the lake. I never knew the history or about the grotto’s. I moved here in 2000. I can’t wait for spring to go explore. Can anyone just go see it?

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:34 pm


      Is it private property, so we wouldn’t recommend just going and exploring on your own. The caretakers that are there now are pretty friendly, I would recommend getting in touch with them. The grottos have technically been condemned due to safety reasons so even once you have permission to be on the property, you’ll still want to tread gingerly around them.

      • Sadie Grace
        January 14, 2014 @ 4:36 pm

        Ok. Thanks.

  19. Anne frances tubbs
    January 13, 2014 @ 11:15 pm

    I grew up in Lima, member of St. Rose of Lima Parrish. In the early 70’s we had retreats and classes at St. Michaels Mission in class rooms, chapel and the beautiful grotto’s. Remember going up to the mission with my father who loved to travel back roads checking out things exploring. We would do the station of the cross at Easter and walk the grotto’s. At X-Mas went up to the tree farm cut down a tree. We always had good memories of that time so sad when we back in the late 80’s & 90’s how it changed. So nice to see that someone is going to try to save it.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

      Anne it sounds like your dad is just our kind of guy! So great that you have such fond memories of that time and all those places.

  20. Dave
    January 13, 2014 @ 11:20 pm

    My father Dr. David Redding and a fellow chiropractor — Dr. Al Cera bought the mission around 1980 in an attempt to convert it into to a health spa and retreat center. They had a all natural health restaurant there. It didn’t take off like they thought and had to close.
    My father has much more information if you are interested in contacting him.
    Thank You!
    Dr. David Redding Jr.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 12:36 pm

      Dave that’s a great connection!! We were in the very rooms where the health spa existed, and even some of the landscape-looking wallpaper is still up and ‘in tact’. Maybe we’ll be in touch soon to uncover more of that part of the story!

  21. Mark Schuster
    January 14, 2014 @ 1:17 am

    I remember this fondly. As a young adult and alter boy we would travel all the way from Dansville to the SVD Mission for Retreat – a 25 minute ride. The beautiful Gregorian Chats could be heard echoing throughout the buildings. We would walk the grottoes and pause and reflect at the many stations. It was a time of quiet reflection that, today, is sorely missing

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 12:28 pm

      What great memories Mark! Glad we were able to stir them up for you. The chants are something I wish there were recordings of somewhere. Reading all of our new visitors’ memories here make me wish I were alive back then to have experienced the tranquility so many are sharing!

  22. Fred Holmes
    January 14, 2014 @ 9:25 am

    I lived on the Niver farm (now Begy’s) with my two brothers John and Ed from 1942 until 1954 when I went off to college. Ed and John were born on the farm. My father and mother (Harold and Winnie) were practicing Catholics and although we attended the church in Livonia Center, many times, the all male choir came to our church and sang the high mass. My Uncle Bernie, who lived with us worked in the vineyard when we moved to the farm until he retired. I went to summer school at the St. Michael s Mission and served as an altar boy at St Michaels in Livionia Center. Many times filling in as an altar boy with traveling priests from the mission as they said mass in churches too small to have a full-time priest. Fond memories of the mission. I remember the Iten’s, the Goerings. (Mr Goering was my godfather) and Sam McRae was my best friend. . AS a point of interest the Misssion only trained brothers not priests. Brothers served the church but were not ordained to say mass.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 12:26 pm

      Thanks for these memories Fred, it’s awesome that you had such great experiences there growing up and have the memories of it all.

      Thanks for the clarification on the brothers/priests part–that’s good info!

  23. Pam
    January 14, 2014 @ 11:22 am

    I am VERY interested and anymore “stories” of Saint Michael’s Mission! Very well written article!

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 12:25 pm

      Thanks Pam!! We’re just as interested as you, this was a fun research project!

  24. Kathy
    January 14, 2014 @ 12:55 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this research. It has generated many comments, sharing memories by those who experienced Saint Michael’s Mission during the active years. This area has always intrigued me – each of the comments sheds a little more light.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:16 pm


      Our site has blown up the last day or so with people seeing this post so I figured it got posted somewhere popular recently. It’s great that so many people are enjoying this!!

  25. Norma
    January 14, 2014 @ 1:20 pm

    Thank you for the wonderful story. Back in the sixties we attended Saint Mary’s School in Dansville & they took us there once or twice.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 2:15 pm

      Thanks for reading and commenting Norma!!

  26. Fran Button
    January 14, 2014 @ 4:20 pm

    I remember picking grapes in the Fall once when the seminarians were there running the winery and people were asked to volunteer to help harvest the grapes. I used to play the organ at St. Michael’s Church in Livonia Center (1969-1971) and there was a young priest from the Mission, Father Elmer Nadicksbend (sp?) who use to say Mass every other weekend alternately with Father LeFrois (Pastor of St Michael’s Church). He took some of the seminarians on a sledding trip to Letchworth Park and two of them went over the edge and were killed when they fell into the gorge. They weren’t recovered until May. That was a very sad time. I will never forget that when I think of the Mission. Still, it is a very beautiful, meaningful place.

    • Chris
      January 14, 2014 @ 4:39 pm

      Wow Fran, that’s an interesting piece of history but also really sad. It sounds like you had quite a connection to the Mission, we’re really glad you came across our site and got some enjoyment in reading this post. We’re grateful for you commenting and sharing this history!

    • Laureen Sherner
      January 14, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

      I remember St. Michael’s Mission. My parents took me there, I believe it must have been the late 50s, and I remember the grottoes intrigued me. We purchased rosaries and holy cards there. I feel that the grottoes were across the street from the two large buildings and feel that somewhere in my parents’ slides there may be pictures of St. Michael’s.

      I also have a memory of the seminarians from St. Michael’s who died at Letchworth Park. It was prominent in the news of this area.

      It was a very holy place and a wonderful memory!

  27. Lorrie
    January 14, 2014 @ 8:00 pm

    Enjoyed reading the article and all the posts!

    I attended an Engaged Encounter at St. Michael’s Mission in November 1980.

    Growing up in Springwater, and traveling over Bald Hill, almost daily, it was always a pleasant site to see across the lake.

  28. Betsy
    January 14, 2014 @ 8:13 pm

    There is a home further down the road (on the right) that used to be a “nunery”.

  29. Tricia
    January 14, 2014 @ 9:47 pm

    I used to go there twice weekly to provide therapy services to a child who lived there. It was 6-9 years ago, and the place always intrigued me. The family occupied an area on the 3rd or 4th floor, and always had to send someone down to open the door. Thanks for sharing!

  30. Peter
    January 14, 2014 @ 9:50 pm

    I was there with my altar boy group as a twelve year old in 1964. We had lunch there with the brothers who were housed there, and even played a softball game against them and won. It was a beautiful building and the grotto was kept up…with statues and winding tunnels…we spent most of the day walking through those “tunnels” looking at the various statues of saints, etc. It was one, long continuous grotto….seemed like forever to a twelve year old….beautiful place.

  31. Brad
    January 15, 2014 @ 12:38 am

    I used to go up there a lot when I was a kid. Now that I’m living back in the area I might swing up there again. I always liked that place.

    • Brad
      January 15, 2014 @ 12:40 am

      Oh, and this area is Western New York not upstate. Upstate begins just above NYC and doesn’t encompass everything outside of NYC.

  32. Linda
    January 15, 2014 @ 8:37 am

    In high school (in the 70’s) I used to spend some summer weekends at my friend’s cottage on Conesus Lake. Her father took us to walk the grottos at least once. I remember thinking that it was a pretty cool place. Then 15 years later my husband and I spent a weekend there on a retreat for engaged couples preparing to marry in the Catholic Church. We got to walk in one of the grottos together…..altogether a peaceful, lovely experience. Thanks for sharing the history.

  33. Robert
    January 15, 2014 @ 11:13 am

    Received article from friends who live in the area. I attended St. Michael’s Mission House as a freshman Brother Candidate for the Society of the Divine Word, 1955-56. Kept my report card & rule book, along with two b/w photos of the Mission House & the playing fields looking down to Hemlock Lake.
    My wife & I plan on visiting St. Michael’s, part of my ” bucket list “, preferably during late summer, early fall.
    Thank you for sharing your visit.

  34. Mary
    January 15, 2014 @ 11:23 am

    Thank you for this lovely article, I didn’t know of the Mission’s existence and will become a place to visit. We hope the new owners won’t be deluged with visitors! I’m sure the Catholic Church, not knowing what the future held for the property, removed most religious items out of fear that they could be desecrated.

  35. Sammy
    January 15, 2014 @ 5:11 pm

    I used to work at this mission before the church sold it…..
    some where not sure where I have photos of the grottos as they were and know very well how they were set up.
    The Father at the time I worked there told the story that when it was the school for the priest hood one of them could not pay for his schooling…and he build the grottos himself to pay for his way.
    They were really beautiful and very well carved out. they had candles lit in some of the stations.
    Yes it was very beautiful and I am glad that I learned what happened to them as I often wondered after the new owners took over…
    the photos of the upper floor do not look like they did when I worked there.
    Thank-you so much for the up date now I know

  36. Bob Flesch
    January 15, 2014 @ 11:34 pm

    I have lived on Conesus Lake since 1963 and worked for Rochester Telephone Corp. for 37 years. Over the years the opportunity to work at the Mission installing telephones and systems was part of my job. Having complete access to the property and the Brothers I was able to experience the total area. It is ,as you have written, is extremely beautiful. My neighbor’s mother was the secretary there for many years.

  37. gary
    January 16, 2014 @ 9:44 pm

    I remember the grottos and spending a weekend at St Michaels Mission back in 1966 for a retreat with my class from St Joseph’s school in Wayland. Spent time with the Brothers. Played baseball. Toured the winery. Got in trouble sampling too much wine. Father in charge of the mission scolded the brothers that were supervising the wine tour. The brothers all had to do penance for letting us drink.

  38. Nicole (DeMoras) Puffer
    January 18, 2014 @ 12:41 am

    I met a lot of beautiful people at the Mission back in the ’80s. Fr. Dave held a few leadership retreats there and some of the attendees are now priests :). The grottos were more intact than they appear to be now and I remember candles in a few of them. Thank you for writing this article and sharing the photos.

  39. Linda
    January 21, 2014 @ 2:01 am

    Just discovered this site and found it very interesting as well as informative. I also was brought up not too far from the mission and used to go there as a place where I could talk to myself and put life into a new perspective. It was very relaxing and no one bothered me. Still go by there quite often and am very glad that it is being “put back together”. Thank you for researching this and it is great to see so much interest. (It was also pretty interesting to recognize some of the names of the people who have posted.)

  40. Cheri Seward Hillegeer
    February 1, 2014 @ 1:47 pm

    My family attended St. MIchael’s church in Livonia Center in the 60’s and 70’s.My mom taught CCD at church and my family became friends with a lot of the brothers.They would often be at our house for dinner or parties or just hanging out.Both my brother and sister attended middle school at the mission and took guitar lessons from Brothers Bob Kelly and another who’s last name { i believe } was Callahan.Can’t remember his 1st name .I think of the brothers often and wonder what happened to them.Thank you for this article,brought back good memories !

  41. Barbara
    February 17, 2014 @ 11:38 am

    I remember Brothers from the Divine Word Seminary coming to the local churches to sing at midnight mass at Christmastime. I have some Pictures of the place taken in the 50’s and 60’s, but was unsure what had happened there in the last 40 years or so. It looks comparatively abandoned to the way I remember it in the 60’s, and I’m glad that it is still being put to use..

  42. Molly Gascon Baumbarger
    March 12, 2014 @ 1:14 am

    When I was a little girl my parents rented a house from the Mission that used to be an old school from what I am told. We lived at the end of Mission road and if you looked out from the driveway you saw the vineyards to the right and a field with horses to the left. Behind the house were apple trees filled with apples! Needless to say my mother was canning a lot and making pies, juices and jellies. I remember vividly the Mission, grottos and the brothers and Nuns who were in residence at there.
    My brothers and sister and I were all baptized at the Mission on the same day. I remember someone with a large white hat and long robes presenting my parents with a magnificent gold gilded bible that my parents still have to this day!
    I remember peeling apples in the kitchen of the Mission and helping the Brothers make pies. I was only 5 or 6 years old then. Too young to cut up the apples but old enough to put them on the peeler and turn the handle. I remember playing in the large gymnasium with my two brothers and sister Denise. The Brothers even let us explore the whole of the mission as long as we behaved and didn’t get to loud. I always said if I had the money I would buy the Mission and let all my friends live there.
    I looked forward to getting out of school because the first place I would go after school was the Mission to see the Brothers. I loved them all so! There were even times they would babysit us when my parents went out or had to work late . The grottos I knew like the back of my hand! My brothers used to blindfold me and see if I could navigate my way through from one end to the other and I succeeded every time with no peeking! My mother and father knew just where to find me when I had been gone too long. Either in the grotto or in the kitchen of the Mission.
    It was the early 70’s then. It was like a castle to me. My secret wonderland! I miss it so much. We lived there for a year or two before I started kindergarten until I was in the forth grade of Livonia primary school. I remember crying looking out the back window of my fathers car as we drove away from my castle. Although we moved to Florida then, we moved back to NY after only a couple years and I would go and visit the Mission as often as I could. I watched it slowly decay over the years and saw the grotto disappear much to my sadness. The Nuns that lived in the big house behind the Mission were gone and so were the Brothers.
    The last time I was there was just about 3 years ago and I stood in the Grotto of Agony and cried. I recounted all my carefree days as a child there and now I was looking at rubble. Just rubble. As I walked out with my eyes still filled with tears I became angry that no one had taken care of such a wonderful place and had just let it go to rot and ruin! To this day I still say ” If I had the money…!” The Mission is a place that is now and forever embedded in my memories and recalled with love and fondness. Your article and photos have brought back many memories for me, both good and, not so much bad as, sad at the loss of this remarkable and one of a kind place. Thank you for taking the time to bring it back to everyone if even for a moment.

  43. Bob MacDonald
    May 7, 2014 @ 6:40 pm

    This was very interesting to me. I graduated from SUNY at Geneseo in 1969 and taught my first year of public school in the fall of that year….at St. Michael’s Mission. During that year the Jr. High School for Livonia was held there. The School Board had rented the north building from the monks. To my knowledge there were only about 6 to 8 monks living there at the time and they had that huge place all to themselves.
    My classroom was in the little chapel room in the north building….and I’m pretty sure the picture above was my classroom. One time I was sick and as a class, we were working on a project involving wood….building a hand carriage to bring in one of my students to an assembly to elect a student council president. We were doing our “Hail Caesar” impression for a big entrance.
    Our class candidate was a kid named Dennis Harrington.
    Anyway….I was out one day due to illness and came back to a broken stain glass window panel. One of the boys lost control while hammering a nail and the hammer flew out of his hand and right through the window.
    That was my first year teaching and the start of my 40 year career in teaching which took me to schools in NY, GA, FL and even Micronesia for two years.
    Ray Connell was the Principal and one of the finest people I have ever known. They eventually named the Jr. High after him.
    That year we had a huge Faculty Follies show which I produced and helped write and we made $700 (big money in those days) for the Livonia ambulance fund.
    Lots of great memories. I’ve lived most of the past 30 years in Tampa and I plan to visit that area of NY this summer….seeing the old sights and visiting some friends still there and still alive.
    I do plan on driving out to St. Michael’s and maybe getting a chance to see the inside as well as the outside. And yes….I remember the grotto and the basement gym and more.
    Bob MacDonald

  44. PopWars » Blog Archive » Grotto of Agony
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  45. dan slattery
    October 13, 2014 @ 11:14 am


    A great walk through history! And what a wonderful restoration by so many young people. I lived at St Michael’s from 1960 – 1963 as a religious brother. A bustling place with over 400 residents at the time. Lot’s of great memories! Any chance of getting a tour?

    Thanks much,

    • Bob MacDonald
      October 13, 2014 @ 7:05 pm

      I did go out there this past summer (2014). It appears that there are some families living in the south building as I saw 3 young boys playing in the garage behind the building.
      The north building is in disrepair and has windows broken out at the very top floor. I walked up the walkway (which was overgrown with weeds and tree branches) to the door and peaked in the window. All I could see was the hall but it looks like a deserted facility.
      It was sad to see but I would have loved to go in and see my old classroom.
      It is a majestic old building that ought to be restored and used as a grand old hotel or something like that.

      • Fred Holmes
        October 13, 2014 @ 8:35 pm

        I grew up on the Niver farm from 1942 till 1955 when I went of to RIT. My buddy was Sam McCrae and we covered every inch of the Marrow Back (sic) and attended summer school when I was about ten or eleven. We went to church at St Michaels in Livonia Center and felt it a special treat when the Brothers from St. Michaels Mission came down and sang for us. I graduated from Livonia Central in ’54. I am in the process of writing a memoir of growing up on a small farm in post-war rural America.. The Mission will play a role in my memoir so if any one wants a copy it will be available as an e-book in a few months. I live in Dallas but still have a brother in Avon. So if you want a copy it will be free and probably available thru smashwords. Just send me your e-mail address and I will put you n the list.

        Fred Holmes

        • Bob MacDonald
          October 14, 2014 @ 9:19 am

          Hi Fred,
          That sounds interesting. I’d like to have a copy.
          Bob MacDonald

  46. dan slattery
    October 13, 2014 @ 11:17 am


    Thank you for a wonderful memory walk. What a wonderful job of restoration by so many young people! I lived at St. Michael’s from 1960 – 1963 as a religious brother. I am currently living in Springwater, NY. Any chance for a tour?

    Thanks much,

  47. Mary
    December 9, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

    Hi, I used to come here with my family to visit St. Michaels Mission. I was in grammar school at the time. I have just recently thought about the beautiful grotto’s. It was so serene and it felt like the most holiest place you could be. To me , it was as if Jesus was right inside there. I was in awe of the beautiful statues. I remember the large white stones the most. I’m 64 years old. I recently was telling a Catholic friend of mine about trying to find this place and I could not remember the name of the mission. My family is deceased and they would have remembered the name. Thank goodness for google. So sad to hear what has happened to that gorgeous path and the grotto’s. It truly was a holy and magical place. I so wish it was still there to see. I remember going inside the church too. Thank you so much for putting this information out there. I am sure so many people my age would love to know , what happened to the Mission.

  48. Mike Strasburg
    February 1, 2015 @ 2:32 pm

    Growing up at the North end of Hemlock lake, I spent many cold days hunting the city property near St. Michael’s Mission. My parents attended school there while Livonia Jr. High was being built. It was always a place of mystery and intrigue to me as I went past learning how to drive, not exactly legally, on Mission, Blank, Old Bald Hill, Marrowback and Rix Hill roads. Many fond memories in those ravine ridden forests and twisting roads.

  49. Melissa Adams Duffy
    August 18, 2015 @ 4:53 pm

    I lived next door to the Mission and went to church there every Sunday. We were close friends with the brothers there and often had then for dinners and family functions. One of the brothers, Brother Joseph, loved to come and take buggy rides with me and my horse Billy Jo at least once a week. They were wonderful people. We still keep in touch with two who are still alive today. The grottos were beautiful and I remember touring them any chance I got as a kid. My parents still live next door and it has been sad for me to see the mission falling apart. There have been several groups who have come in over the years to restore the mission but have moved on due to its daunting task. There was a restaurant in the mission for a short time, serving nothing but holistic foods. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. St. Michaels Mission will always hold a place in my heart and my memories. It was a great place to see and the brothers who lived there were great friends to have. As a photographer, I am envious that you had such a wonderful opportunity to tour the place. You wrote a great article!

  50. Sharyl Stear Lewis
    September 21, 2015 @ 10:50 pm

    I am so excited to have come across your article, Next September I will be returning for my home town of Springwater’s Bicentennial I am planning on staying in whatever building has been refurbished with six of my friends. Sounds so serene and welcoming. Thank you for your descriptive and informative article. Makes me more excited after reading all the history.

    I have returned to that area and heard that there was a winery in Hemlock but never tried to find it. I can’t wait to explore an area that was so close to home, yet so unknown to me. Thank you. Sharyl

  51. Terry Dean
    September 26, 2015 @ 4:15 pm

    I remember visiting St. Michael’s in the 1950s as an altar boy @ St. Joseph’s in Wayland. The ass’t. pastor there was our leader. The brothers made the altar wine & communion hosts for the churches in the Rochester Diocese.

  52. Patricia Renno[Nesbitt]
    January 14, 2016 @ 10:07 am

    Thank you for a walk down memory lane. Visited St. Michael’s Mission with my girl scout troop in the late 50’s. Now live close by and wonder what happen to the mission, glad it’s be restore.

  53. Conesus and the Rebellious Captain |
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  54. Janice "Benham" Sellers
    January 4, 2017 @ 10:00 pm

    Thank you for the walk down memory lane. I was so surprised to find this post and read it. I grew up in Hemlock and had gone through it on tour.I remember feeling like it was such a holy and a special place. I truly would like for it to be restored and open for tour. Thank you! Thank you ! Exciting to say the least.✝

  55. Vincent Piscitelli
    January 28, 2017 @ 9:43 am

    This was amazing. My grandfather was Dr. Albert Cera, and was one of the directors and owners of The Holistic Health Center. I spent the first few years of my life; from about 2-6 years old; growing up in these buildings. As a child – the memories I have of this place have left an undeniable impression on me. I have just moved back to the area after many years, and its interesting but – this place is kinda calling my name once again.

  56. Gerry Chidiac
    October 19, 2017 @ 2:14 am

    Thank you very much for this. I used to study with the Divine Word Missionaries. Back in the late 1970’s I was attending St. Mark’s Seminary High School in Erie, PA. They used to take us to St. Michael’s for a weekend retreat every fall. Though it seemed old and a bit run down to us, it left a deep impression that I never forgot. I loved walking through the woods to the shore of the lake that the building overlooked.
    I actually was recently wondering what happened to the place and was very pleased to find your article. Thank you so much! I’m going to share it with some of my friends from my Divine Word days.

    • Chris Clemens
      October 19, 2017 @ 7:58 am

      Happy to hear that I could help with those memories, Gerry. Those woods (and the rest of the Finger Lakes) certainly are an impressionable area of the state!

  57. Kim Iris Clemons
    May 19, 2019 @ 8:01 pm

    So interesting. Thank you. My grandfather Charles Ambrose Clemons/Clemens/Clemans lived in Conesus with his parents Putney and Orpha when he was one year old. I believe he was born there. Can you direct me to an office or source where I might find out where he lived in Conesus?
    Thank you.
    Kim Iris Clemons

    • Chris Clemens
      May 21, 2019 @ 6:31 pm

      Hi Kim,

      How cool to find someone with a connection that shares a last name to me!

      I think a good place to start your research would be with the Livingston County Historical Society. Here’s their website with info and contact information. Good luck in your research!

  58. Frank Tischer
    November 14, 2019 @ 3:02 pm

    Our Faculty men from Bloomfield Central school played the Brothers a few times in the late 50’s. The highlight was the wonderful smorgasbord they prepared for us after the game. A great memory. Frank Tischer

  59. 15 Cobblestone Structures in NY | Exploring Upstate
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  60. Bill Glen
    November 6, 2020 @ 12:45 pm

    I just came across this website and appreciate the the diligence and understanding of it’s history.
    I grew up in Penfield, attended PHS and graduated in 1962.

    As best as I can remember during my Sophomore or Junior year I played basketball for the high school and moonlighted on the St Thomas Moore team for a season playing in the Knight of Columbus league in Rochester. While on that team, we played the high school team from St Michaels at their home court such that it was (pretty small). Our coach had arranged a tour of the grounds which still sticks with me to this day. I remember that the whole school was self sustaining in that each kid was responsible for some aspect of maintenance and support. As I recall they grew their own food and raised livestock to live off of.
    We even had a worship service after the game, essentially honoring the players!
    Later in life I remember driving south and seeing the large structure on the other side of the lake and thinking of our basketball game and tour.

    I would kike to think that we won, but don’t really know?

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  62. Russell A. Gase`
    December 31, 2020 @ 12:25 pm

    GREAT ARTICLE I attended St. Michaels Mission from 1952 to 1956. I have a lot of great memories of St. Michaels. It is really sad to see it in much disrepair.

  63. Heather Ridgway
    March 9, 2021 @ 8:23 pm

    In 1967/68 my family lived on West fall road my father was a tenant farmer for Mr. Gunsonhouser. My best friend and I often walked to the groups and had a picnic. I’m 60 years old now, but it is one of my best memories.

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  65. David L. Willson
    October 3, 2021 @ 1:39 pm

    We are staying here in the AirBNB. I finally decided to do a little research. I *loved* your very thorough and relatively up-to-date article. One of your links needs an update. At the bottom of the page, you have “Group Renovates former St. Michael’s Mission on Rochester Business Journal” but the link target is out-of-date. The new link target should be:

  66. AJ Jordan The Crescendo
    September 29, 2022 @ 9:58 pm

    Hello, I am the current Historian and Resident Museum Curator at St. Michael’s Mission House in Conesus, New York. I’ve loved reading everybody’s heartfelt stories on this sacred place. Over the course of the last year 2021-2022, we have developed an SVD Museum, cleared out the Grottos and stabilized the roofs, and had a huge influx of AirBNB guests! A few Brothers and Society Of The Divine Word Alumni have visited throughout the spring and summer to reflect on their time here. Wonderful stories, I can imagine the hallways packed with 400+ students in it’s heyday! Currently, we are working on preservation efforts for a new roof for the chapel, and 250 PVC windows. I’ll be contacting the Livingston County Board of Commerce as well as the Rochester Diocese, and trying to track down the old Catholic statues that were sold to Paula’s Antiques in Clarence and the Mercedarians in Central NY. So far we have had some replicas donated towards our cause. If anybody would like more information, I have added a plethora of photographs in albums labeled on ‘The Mission Conesus’ page on Facebook. We hope to hear & see you soon! God Bless.