53 Mill Street, Westfield, MA 01085 • 413.562.3627

Genesis School for Contemplative Living



The application deadline has passed for the April - October 2022 Cohort. 

If you are interested in the 2023 cohort, please contact GSCL Director, Liz Walz at liz4genesis@gmail.com.


"Contemplative communities are more than ever necessary to counterbalance the deep resistance to maturity and evolution as a species. As Jung said in 1960, 'our technology is outpacing our consciousness'; we are at a crossroads and the coming together for contemplative practice and action is essential." ~  Brother Don Bisson

Are you looking for a deeper sense of groundedness? Would you like to experience greater connection to yourself, others, Earth and God? Do you have a sense of longing for spiritual community? 



Sr. Mary Ann Connolly shares her GSCL experience.



Bob & Karen Riedl share their GSCL experience.  


About the School

The Genesis School for Contemplative Living is for anyone and everyone with an interest in deepening contemplative practices. Drawing on Christian mystics as well as other traditions, presenters offer guidance in practical meditation techniques and offer presentations on Wisdom Jesus, Compassion and Self-Compassion, Human and Divine Suffering. Participants receive support in developing their own Rhythm of Life. After the first weekend, participants in past cohorts observed the impact of the program on their life, family, and work. People from any faith tradition or none are welcome. The School is conducted through four on-site, three-night weekends; monthly in person or on line small-groups; with inspirational reading and videos. Are you being called?


How is the School structured?

There are 4 in-person weekend retreats at Genesis, with online group meetings between the on-site gatherings.


What are the learning outcomes?

  • Create a daily contemplative practice
  • Develop a Rhythm of Life: a commitment to live your life in a particular way. It is meant to be crafted with prayer and discernment, in partnership with divinity.
  • Integrate skills to enable you to deal with difficult emotions
  • Cultivate embodied spirituality
  • Deepen your appreciation of and care for Earth
  • Acquire an intellectual framework for understanding this moment in history

During the four residential weekends, learning is both intellectual and experiential, nourishing both the head and the heart for the transformational journey. Each residential weekend will have specific learning outcomes related to the content for that weekend. Weekend components include:

  • Communal silent practice
  • Presentations with Question and Response
  • Individual reflection and journaling; small group process; large group gleaning
  • Ritual and liturgy
  • Contemplative movement
  • Opportunity for one-on-one mentoring related to your contemplative practice

Between residential weekends, learning continues through a commitment to daily practice, group meetings or video calls, and study.


2022 Program Overview

Weekend 1 - Norm Comtois, OMI, Liz Walz, and Christina Leano
This opening weekend will create the framework for our seven-month journey together. Presentations on contemplative spirituality and New Story theology will be complimented by practical tips on developing or recommitting to a silent prayer practice at home. Using the building blocks offered in the opening weekend, participants will develop scaffolding to support their own spiritual Rhythm of Life by the closing weekend in October. Each participants will choose a contemplative practitioner or mystic that they would like to read and journey with through the program.

Weekend 2 – Matthew Wright, Norm Comtois, OMI, and Liz Walz
Rev. Matthew Wright will lead discussions on Jesus as Wisdom Teacher and the Holy Trinity through the lens of Fr. Teilhard de Chardin’s theology of Christophany. Building on presentations in the first weekend, Matthew will delve into the evolution of theology and Incarnation in particular. Liz Walz will apply the relevance of these ideas to the individual spiritual journey, so participants can better understand how to interpret their own experiences through various stages of spiritual development.

Weekend 3 – Christina Leano, Norm Comtois, OMI, and Liz Walz
Christina Leano will home in on the challenges and gifts of a contemplative spiritual practice. She will inspire and ground participants in “Watchfulness of the Mind,” Loving Awareness, Offering Compassion to Self, Dealing with Difficult Emotions, and Loving Awareness in Relationships. This weekend, Norm and Christina will also bridge our personal practice with reverence for and relationship with the Environment and Ecology.

Weekend 4 – Don Bission, FMS, Norm Comtois, OMI, and Liz Walz
On our final weekend, Bro. Don Bisson, FMS, will take us to the depths in his insightful and compelling presentations on Human and Divine Suffering and the Dark Night of the Soul and Dark Night of the Senses. Norm Comtois will invite reflection on Where do we go from here? Participants will describe their commitment to the Rhythm of Life they have designed, and offer brief presentations on the mystic they have been journeying with.

Each weekend will include silent practice, embodiment and movement practice, Contemplative Eucharist, small group process, and ample time for personal reflection, journaling, rest, and community-building with others called to the contemplative life.


Core Faculty

Fr. Norman Comtois, OMI, MA is an ordained Catholic priest and member of the Missionary Oblates.  His experience in Pastoral Counseling, Intentional Eucharistic Communities and Renewal programs for women religious continue to inform his ministry as a current retreat director. Since the year 2000 he has devoted his interest and education toward developing retreats and courses that bring the Universe Story to life in a spiritually relevant and meaningful way. Father Norm encourages those attending his presentations and retreats to ponder the wisdom of their religious tradition in the context of the Universe Story and of contemplative ecology. 

Christina Leaño brings over 12 years of experience offering spiritual programs and guidance to diverse audiences. From weekend retreats to spiritual direction, nature-based experiences to meditation classes, her passion is to create opportunities to facilitate people's spiritual growth and integration while highlighting the seamlessness between personal and social transformation; contemplation and action.

Christina's work is grounded in her Catholic contemplative background, her Buddhist studies and practice of 20 years, training as a mindfulness teacher, and lifelong commitment to ecological and social justice.  She holds a BA from Yale University and an MA from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA.

Liz Walz, ASP, draws on her experience as a Catholic Worker, Plowshares activist, non-violence trainer, yoga teacher and massage therapist in facilitating programs, retreats and group process.  She is trained as a Spiritual Director and BioSpiritual Focusing Facilitator. In 2018 she graduated from the Center for Action and Contemplation’s Living School; she is a facilitator of Circle Groups for new Living School participants. Liz co-founded and is Director of the Genesis School for Contemplative Living. In March 2020, in response to the Coronavirus pandemic, she launched Heart Centered Meditation, a virtual, twice-daily meditation and sharing group. Liz is currently enrolled in a Masters/Doctoral program, Depth Psychology with Specialization in Jungian and Archetypal Studies through Pacifica Graduate Institute.

Rev. Matthew Wright is an Episcopal priest, writer, and retreat leader working to renew the Christian Wisdom tradition. He serves as priest-in-charge at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Woodstock, NY and is a teacher for Northeast Wisdom and The Contemplative Society, non-profits rooted in the teaching lineage of Cynthia Bourgeault.  Matthew lives with his wife, Yanick, alongside the brothers of Holy Cross Monastery in West Park, NY.

Br. Don Bisson, FMS is, first and foremost, a spiritual director and is widely respected as a specialist in the training, formation and supervision of spiritual directors. 

A Marist brother based in Esopus, New York, he has graduate degrees in liturgy, spirituality, and transpersonal psychology, and earned his Doctor of Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion specializing in Spiritual Direction and Jungian Psychology.  With more than 90 live audio recordings available, Brother Bisson is internationally recognized for his lectures, workshops, and retreats on the interrelationship of Christian spirituality and Jungian psychology.

His soulful humanity makes Don attractive to the hundreds of people who find their way to virtually everything he offers.  He is a man committed to “walking the talk.”  From this commitment comes a grounded wisdom and an authentic humility.  His gems of wisdom have been formed in the heat and pressure of the deep underground passage of his own healing journey in God.  Compassion for what it means to be human is the result, alongside clarity about the compelling call of the Spirit to “wake up” and participate consciously in God’s purposes in our world.  This waking up is not an achievement but a process that invites him–and us–into a transformation that is ongoing.


What Former Students are Saying

"It wasn’t one part, but all the parts integrating with each other. Great variety in helping me let go of things in my faith that no longer serve me. Also, so many options were presented as prayer to help me pick and choose what I wanted to use as my practice."


"The interaction with others, the guidance of staff, all of the above contributed to my practice and understanding of a more mature theology."


"I thought that the flow of topics from weekend to weekend was well planned. My favorites were compassion and ecology. I felt a growing personal connection with the Divine Presence as the program progressed."


"The Rule of Life assignment really helped me to pull it all together. I am glad that I was exposed to many ideas and with the help of my home group support, I have established daily prayer, embodiment, mindfulness and social action practices."



Download the application for the 2023 cohortPlease note, there is a $35 application fee, payable by calling Genesis at 413-562-3627.


How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all, the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious teeming with creatures beyond number- living things both large and small.
- Psalm 104:24-25