New York, N.Y. — Francis Gunn, OFM, of Holy Name of Jesus Church here, is once again singing God’s praises and accompanying himself on his now famous custom guitar, painted with images of 9/11.
The unique guitar, a gift from the New York City Fire Department’s Ladder 25 in gratitude of his work since 9/11, was stolen from a parish vehicle on Oct. 13. In a story of goodness prevailing, the original guitar was returned Jan. 16, after being replaced by Schecter Guitar Research, the company that made the guitars and distributed them to firehouses that lost members after 9/11.
Francis was greatly saddened by the theft, and initially had no luck in replacing the guitar through Schecter. “We would love to replace your guitar, but we’ve checked our inventory and there are none left. We’ll track down some contacts in New York and see what we can do,” they said. While talking with Francis on the phone, they miraculously found another guitar in the warehouse and sent it to him, free.
Guitar Replaced in Time for Christmas
“I felt so relieved,” said Francis. “At least I had a replica of the guitar back in time for the holidays so I could play at the firehouse Christmas parties.” Francis initially kept a low profile about the replacement guitar, hoping that the original would still be returned.
“Finally, I decided that after three months, enough time had lapsed and it was time to let people know the good news about the replacement guitar,” he said. But less than an hour after he decided to come clean, a young man appeared on the church steps and told Daniel Kenna, OFM, that he had found a guitar.
Original Guitar Returned Outside Church Thrift Store
The thief apparently decided to return it and left it outside the St. Francis Thrift Store. The young man who found it asked Daniel to describe the stolen guitar, and when he showed him a photo, he confirmed that it was Francis’.
People never stopped praying or giving up hope for the guitar’s return, according to Francis. Even children had been asking if the guitar was returned. Two New York TV stations even broadcast news about its return on Jan. 16.
“As I look back on this experience, said Francis, “it is really a story about the goodness of the human spirit.” From the company that made the guitar and donated them to the FDNY, to the members of Ladder 25, to the person who stole it and had a change of heart, to the young man who found it and returned it, this is a story about goodness and people doing the right thing, according to Francis.
Francis is considering giving the replacement guitar to the FDNY Museum. “I would like to thank the NYPD, FDNY, the people of Holy Name, and so many friends and relatives who took an interest in this and prayed for the return of this precious gift. Thanks also to the media for publicizing the story, which may have helped to encourage its return,” said Francis.