Police searching for suspect who allegedly tried to set Hollis church on fire


A Hollis church was the latest target in a string of vandalism incidents at houses of worship across the borough in recent months.

The Diocese of Brooklyn is working with the NYPD, which is searching for a man who allegedly tried to light St. Gerard Majella Church on fire during the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 21.

Surveillance video at the church captured images of the man throwing what appears to be a scarf in the church vestibule, while the doors were open, and then he is seen lighting something else on fire and throwing it inside the vestibule.

The man then sits down on the church’s steps where he was confronted by Father Josephjude Gannon, pastor of St. Gerard Majella, before fleeing the crime scene.

“This is sad and very scary, but it could have been worse. Thankfully no one was hurt and nothing was damaged,” Father Gannon said. “Clearly this person has issues, whatever they are I don’t know but I hope he gets help. I will pray for him.”

Anyone with information is asked to call the NYPD’s Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS.

This is not the first time Father Gannon has dealt with vandalism at his church located at 188-16 91st Ave. in Hollis.

In Sept. 2019, detectives from the 103rd Precinct arrested a Jamaica woman in connection with two acts of vandalism after causing nearly $12,000 worth of damage at St. Gerard Majella Church. The 69-year-old woman from Jamaica told investigators that “black magic” caused her to take a hammer to the Rosary Stations, which were crafted in Italy, the parish signs affixed to the fence, and the sprinkler system. It was the second time the woman had vandalized the church.

Father Josephjude Gannon thwarted a would-be arsonist at his Hollis church, the same house of worship that was vandalized in Sept. 2019. (QNS file photo)

At the time of her arrest, Father Gannon explained that everything that had been damaged was purchased with parishioner fundraising and they would pray for the woman.

“Such acts or religious intolerance have no place in our society, and every house of worship, regardless of their beliefs, should be respected,” he said.