John E. Gunn, 1911-1924
I have nobody who depends on me, nobody who wants anything, nobody who expects anything, and nobody who will get anything, but as my will will become a matter of record and of reading I want it to be at least good reading. 1
In life and in death I am proud of three things: my Irish birth, my Catholic faith and my American citizenship. 2
No words could have expressed the essence of Bishop John E. Gunn any better than these. His will provided more than good reading when it was read publicly at his funeral. It was, indeed, an inspiration to all who heard it that day and all who have read it ever since. 3 Similarly, his statement of what he was proud of truly expressed who and what he was. Throughout his life, he remained a staunchly outspoken Irishman who vigorously proclaimed his Catholic faith and who defended and promoted the ideals of his adopted country. 4 By the end of his life, in fact, many people did depend on him, many did expect much from him, and many did get much that he had to give, despite what he himself may have said or even thought, for that matter.
John Edward Gunn was born on March 15, 1863, in Fivemiletown, Tyrone, Ireland. The oldest of 11 children, his father was from County Tyrone, his mother from County Fermanagh, and his ancestors from Caithness, Scotland. His forebears' motto, "aut pax aut bellum," meaning "either peace or war," appropriately depicted the family's pride. While influenced by both parents, young Gunn showed a distinct preference for his mother, who lived well into her 80s, thereby seeing her son as a bishop. 5 Of his siblings, Gunn maintained a close relationship with his brother Edward throughout his life. 6
His education followed the traditional course of his day. Between 1875 and 1880, Gunn was educated at St. Mary's, Dundalk. From there, he went to Paignton,