Set on 19 acres in a residential neighborhood in Westfield, Massachusetts, Providence Arboretum encompasses the grounds of Genesis Spiritual Life and Conference Center, a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of Providence of Holyoke, Massachusetts, whose mission dates back over 140 years as a transforming and healing presence in the region.
The land where Genesis flourishes was first settled in the 1500s by the Native American tribe Waranoak of the Algonquin Nation. The Algonquin conception of property was that land was not considered the individual property of any person but rather a sovereign right of a whole people to their political and ecological territory.
Genesis is situated on the former Crane Estate, whose mills in the Berkshires continue to make paper for the United States currency. The property – 19 acres and 26-room Manor House – was purchased by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield in 1929. The home served as a novitiate for the Sisters of Providence until 1932. The Manor then became the residence for the ministry to unwed mothers under the title of the Guild of the Holy Child and was conveyed to the Sisters of Providence in 1942. In 1964 the original house was razed, and a modern building was erected, serving this ministry until December of 1975. In January of 1976, realizing the need for a contemporary spiritual life center, Genesis Spiritual Life Center was founded by the Sisters to expand and continue their healing ministries.
The mission of Genesis is to create an atmosphere that will reveal the love of God for all creation and bring hope and healing to all who come. Sensitivity to the atmosphere, devotion to the land, and attention to program design invite everyone to experience God’s providential care and sense of well-being.
Genesis’ grounds are maintained in cooperation with nature’s wisdom and are free of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. Wooded groves and mature specimen trees, many 100 to 150 years old, surround the property. Within are broad expanses of lawn peppered with commemorative plantings of ornamental trees, shrubs, and gardens which enhance the natural beauty and contemplative atmosphere of the grounds. Among the trees, comfortable benches and lounge chairs invite guests to sit in reflection. A Compassionate Curve pathway, the spiral of life, the peace pole, and the labyrinth provide other means for inspiration and meditation throughout the property. A small fruit orchard, community vegetable gardens, compost pile, chickens, black squirrels, and a variety of birds and other wildlife participate in the council of all beings at Genesis.
In 2012 Genesis staff began transcribing paper records of its commemorative plants into digital format and created a comprehensive catalog of all the plant life on the property. These records were continually updated as new plants were acquired and field checks were conducted. Worn and missing commemorative markers were noted for replacement, and additional tree species were selected to receive display labels for public education. During this process, it became apparent that a foundation was already in place for what could be recognized as an official arboretum. Hence a decision was made to pursue accreditation through the ArbNet Arboretum Accreditation Program. Because the Sisters of Providence had ministered on this site for over 80 years and at this time continue to do so, it was only appropriate that the arboretum be named Providence in their honor.
The dedication and blessing date of Providence Arboretum was June 12, 2016, commemorating the 40th anniversary of Genesis.
Admission and Hours
Providence Arboretum is free-of-charge and open between sunrise and sunset, seven days a week.
Explore with care
Providence Arboretum is a contemplative and reflective environment. During retreat season, June – September, many of our guests are silent. We request all Arboretum guests maintain our serene and peaceful atmosphere by conversing in low voices and being aware of other guests. Our grounds are kept beautiful and environmentally healthy for inspiration, reflection, enjoyment, and learning.
- For the safety of visitors, drones and other remotely controlled aircraft are not allowed at the Arboretum.
- Please leave tobacco, alcohol, glass containers, and grills at home.
- Please, no climbing on trees or hanging from branches.
- Place all trash in garbage receptacles, and use recycling containers for paper and plastic.
- Providence Arboretum is a tobacco-free environment. Smoking and tobacco use (including smokeless cigarettes), are not allowed indoors or outdoors within the Arboretum.
- The Arboretum core collection includes more than 35 labeled specimens throughout the grounds. More than 190 commemorative plantings are also marked. Watch for poison ivy. Avoid plant damage by refraining from walking through garden beds.
- The Arboretum has acquired trees and other plants for display, inspiration, enjoyment, and in memory of loved ones. Unlike indoor museums, our collections are out in the open. Our guests and visitors must respect our living specimens.
- If you are walking your dog through the Arboretum, please pick up any droppings and dispose of properly in our waste containers near the guest ramp.
What to look for
Compassionate Curve Pathway
Enjoy a contemplative walk along this pathway. Inspirational reflections are posted intermittently.
Spiral of Life
This simple brick labyrinth was installed as a gift to Genesis. Follow it and find your center; pause, and follow it back out. Receive the peace of this simple meditation.
Sr. Mary Horgan, SP, used gifts in honor of her 50th Jubilee to have this Peace Pole designed and installed. Pause for a moment and offer loving thoughts and prayers to Earth’s far corners.
This natural labyrinth is an opportunity for a mindful walk or simple enjoyment. Simple booklets on ways to walk the labyrinth intentionally or meditatively are available from the Genesis bookshop.