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The power of prayer

Former inmates of Folsom Prison continue centering prayer practice and improve outlook

November 30, 2021

An image from the flyer promoting the film's debut showing some of the current and/or past Folsom Prison inmates whose lives were transformed through the practice of centering prayer
An image from the flyer promoting the film's debut showing some of the current and/or past Folsom Prison inmates whose lives were transformed through the practice of centering prayer

By Michelle Leon ‘22

Holding Still” is a fascinating documentary showcasing how centering prayer helped current and former incarcerated inmates from Folsom Prison transform their trauma and shame into a liberating and healing experience.

The film was directed by Mary Trunk, assistant professor in the film department, with several Mount connections in the crew: Roman Zenz, cinematographer and film department equipment manager; Lea Smith '22 (Weekend/Evening & Online College), production assistant; Lucky Atkare (MFA alumnus), additional camera, sound; and Lilit Manukyan (alumna) production assistant. The documentary had been in the works for more than a year, and the crew’s efforts were rewarded with more than 500 people attending its virtual premier hosted by the Prison Contemplative Fellowship and Catholic Prison Ministries Coalition.

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“It's not a magic wand, it's not a silver bullet, it's not a shot of whiskey. It's not something that you realize or understand right away, but it's a process. But the results are very, very real, and they're not an accident.” - Current Folsom Prison inmate

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Mary Trunk, shown here, an assistant professor in the film department, directed
Mary Trunk, shown here, an assistant professor in the film department, directed "Holding Still" with help from a crew that included several Mount connections: Lea Smith (Weekend/Evening & Online College), production assistant; Lucky Atkare (MFA alumnus), additional camera, sound; and Lilit Manukyan (alumna) production assistant.

Trunk was working on another project on restorative justice where she met chaplain Ray Leonardini, who founded the centering prayer practice for inmates. He introduced Trunk to some of the men, and after speaking to them individually and getting to know their stories, she wanted to create the “Holding Still” documentary that would allow current prisoners and the outside world to understand the power of inner healing

“We decided we wanted to make a film that really highlighted the vulnerability and the way these men practice this,” says Trunk. “We wanted to make sure that it was the men talking, and not necessarily the facilitators. They're the ones who have had the transformation.

“The film is a way for the general public to become aware of what’s going on and to have access to the prayer circle in a way that isn't intimidating or preachy, but more emotional and inviting.”

Lawrence, one of the men featured in the film, explains, “It's magical for me because it's God healing you in his own ways, and God’s language for me is silence. But it's a silence that really says something to you.”

Ultimately, Professor Trunk hopes that this film builds that human connection with its viewers and shows that everyone deserves a second chance at life, love and forgiveness.

 

NOTE: You can view “Holding Still,” which is about 22 minutes long, and learn more about centering prayer. You can also view the movie followed by an unedited hour-long discussion that followed the movie premier. Several of the former inmates featured in the film participated in the panel, as did Trunk and Leonardini.