Born: March 15, 1863 – County Tyrone, Ireland
Ordained a Priest: Feb. 2, 1890
Ordained a Bishop: Aug. 29, 1911
Died: Feb. 19, 1924
Episcopal Motto: Show Thyself A Mother
Father John Gunn, a Marist priest, was appointed the sixth Bishop of Natchez by Pope Pius X in 1911.
Bishop Gunn was known as a brilliant orator and for having tremendous energy. He cultivated the diocese’s relationship with Catholic Extension to help in the building of chapels throughout the state.
He also helped found St. Augustine Seminary with the Society of the Divine Word in Bay St. Louis for the formation of African American clergy in 1923.
By the time of his death in 1924, almost every Catholic in Mississippi was able to reach one of these chapels for Mass at least once a month. Catholic churches grew from 75 to 149 during his administration, and Catholics grew in number from 17,000 to more than 31,000.
Bishop Gunn’s 13 years of service to the Diocese were marked by the difficult four years of the first World War and the ravages of Spanish influenza. The Bishop believed strongly in service to one’s country. “In life and death I am proud of three things: my Irish birth, my Catholic faith, and my American citizenship,” he said. “I tried to translate my love for all three into service and sacrifice,” he wrote in his will.
Bishop Gunn died in New Orleans in 1924 and is buried beside his fellow Irishman Bishop Thomas Heslin on Catholic Hill in the Natchez City Cemetery.
In his will he wrote, “I believe in God. I believe all He has said because He said it and because His infallible Church heard Him and told me what He said. I love Him with my whole heart and soul and strength and for His sake I love others.”