Francis X Gunn, OFM
1953 – 2011
Fr. Francis Gunn, OFM, was born April 15, 1953 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Upon discerning a religious vocation, he entered St. Francis Seminary High School, Lafayette, N.J. a school run by Capuchin Franciscans. After graduating in 1971, he entered their pre-novitiate program at Don Bosco College in Newton, N.J., receiving his bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1975.
Later that year, Fr. Francis entered the Capuchin novitiate at St. Lawrence Friary, Beacon, N.Y., professing his first vows there in 1976. He then began theology studies at Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, N.J., before deciding to transfer to the Order of Friars Minor in 1978, entering novitiate at St. Francis Friary, Brookline, Mass. Toward the end of his year there, he was certified as an emergency medical technician, an involvement he kept up for most of his life.
Fr. Francis professed first vows in 1979 at St. Mary’s Parish in Pompton Lakes, N.J., and remained there while completing his theology program at Darlington, receiving his master of divinity degree in 1980. He professed solemn vows in 1981 at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City and was ordained to the priesthood there two months later. That fall, Fr. Francis was assigned to campus ministry at Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y., but returned the following year to St. Mary’s Parish, where he stayed until 1987. He also studied counseling at nearby Seton Hall University, receiving a master of arts degree in 1985.
In 1987, Fr. Francis began experiencing tension between the demands of ministry and fraternity, and asked for time away from the Province to discern his future. He pursued graduate studies at Yeshiva University, receiving a master of social work degree in 1988. After this, he worked at several social agencies in Northern New Jersey, engaged in private practice as a psychotherapist and lecturer, and taught at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He remained involved in priestly ministry, supplying weekend assistance at a number of parishes in Northern New Jersey.
Fr. Francis decided to return to life and ministry in the Province in 1995. During the transition, he accepted an assignment from the Archdiocese of New York as parochial vicar at St. Columba Parish in Hopewell Junction, N.Y. He then went to Siena College, where he served as director of campus ministry from 1996 to 1999. That year, he again requested a leave of absence, serving as parochial vicar at St. Denis Parish in Hopewell Junction.
He returned from his leave of absence in 2000 and was assigned to Holy Name of Jesus Parish in New York City as parochial vicar. In the wake of the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001, his background as pastoral minister, emergency medical technician, and social worker led officials from the New York City Fire Department to invite him to join the crisis intervention team that visited hundreds of city firefighters and their families throughout the following months.
In 2002, Fr. Francis was appointed pastor and guardian of St. Joseph Parish, East Rutherford, N.J. and in 2005, returned to New York as pastor and guardian of Holy Name of Jesus Parish. In 2008, he was asked to serve as director of strategic planning for the Province, with residence as part-time parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Parish.
Fr. Francis again began questioning whether he should live and minister as a friar or as a diocesan priest. In 2011, he formally requested exclaustration from the Order, with a view of becoming incardinated in the Diocese of Albany. In February, Bishop Howard Hubbard appointed Fr. Francis administrator of St. Francis Parish, Northville, N.Y., and St. Joseph Parish, Broadalbin, N.Y.
He died Aug. 24, 2011 in the rectory of St. Francis of Assisi Church, Northville. Fr. Francis was 58 years old, a professed friar for 32 years and a priest for 29 years.