HOLLIS, Queens -- A brazen thief walked into a church in Queens and walked out with two guitars.
“They took two of our guitars from our choir, one of which was a family heirloom from our music director,” said Father Joseph Jude Gannon.
“She’s had it for 30 years since her father gave it to her who’s since now passed away.”
It happened in the middle of the day on October 30, at the Shrine Church of St. Gerard Majella. Today, the NYPD released surveillance video, hoping the public can help track down the suspect.
“They had to be replaced very quickly because of the Christmas season,” said Fr. Gannon. “A lot of the Christmas hymns have a lot of different types of music and they’re necessary for us to be able to worship and praise God and invite the neighborhood in to pray with us.”
The video shows the man walking in through the main door. He then makes his way over to the poor box which he attempts to open but cannot because it is locked.
After that, the suspect is seen disrespecting the sanctuary.
“He walked back across the sanctuary and violated the sanctuary a little bit by walking and dancing.”
The thief ultimately made his way into the sacristy, where he broke one of the Ten Commandments “Thou Shalt Not Steal.”
“He came in here and ended up going through the closet with all the choir supplies,” said Fr. Gannon. “He took them right out, took them by the hand and walked out.”
The guitars cost over $4,000 to replace. It’s money that could be used for one of the church’s many social services programs, youth groups, mission trips or food pantry.
“It’s a violation for them, this is God’s house,” said Fr. Gannon. “Things can be replaced but if the perpetrator would have rang the doorbell and said I needed help, we would’ve helped them.”
The storied church in Hollis is over 100 years old. It’s the first parish in the country dedicated to Saint Gerard the patron saint of expectant mothers. Relics of St. Gerard are kept in an enclosed glass box.
“People come from all over just to pray,” said Fr. Gannon. “(The thief) really hurt a very good community that helps the poor and the most needy all of the time.”
The main door must now be locked. A side door remains open and they’ve increased security. But Fr. Gannon still encourages parishioners to come by. They will always be allowed in.
“We love people to come in to pray, light candles, spend sometime in quiet prayer.”
Father Gannon has words of forgiveness for the thief this holiday season.
“We love you and we do forgive you but we also want our stuff back,” said Fr. Gannon. “If we can help you that would be a great thing to be able to reach out most in need especially this time of year.”
The suspect took off on his bike. Police also have him on surveillance video in the neighborhood.
If you have any information, you’re asked to contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-577-TIPS.
The Shrine Church of St. Gerard Majella welcomes any donations.