Mayo Pharmacy: A Catholic Pharmacy Passionate About Life
The venture also includes a Catholic gift shop.
When you walk into Mayo Pharmacy in Bismarck, North Dakota, you may be taken aback by what you see. Its shelves are not only stocked with vitamins and health goods, but they are also filled with an impressive selection of Catholic religious articles and books.
“The previous owner had a little gift shop at the pharmacy, but when we bought it, my wife Tammy added more to it and improved it,” said Kevin Martian, owner and pharmacist, in an interview with the Register. “The Catholic gift shop is part of our mission as a business. Currently, there are no Catholic gift shops in the Bismarck area. We believe it important for one to be in our community, and we happen to have the space for it, so we do it.”
If you venture a little further into the pharmacy, you will find yourself looking in vain for one of the most commonly dispensed pharmaceuticals in America today: artificial birth control.
“If someone calls with a prescription for birth control, we just tell them that we don’t carry it because we are a Catholic pharmacy,” Martian said. “We try to be respectful and show them Christian love. They are usually pretty understanding, but when we get a prescription for ‘Plan B’ — the morning-after pill — there is usually more tension on their side. Overall, I believe it is a supernatural grace that we aren’t persecuted more for it. God takes care of us.”
The amazing thing is that when Martian graduated from North Dakota State University with a bachelor’s degree in pharmaceutical science and a doctoral degree in pharmacy in 2011, running a pro-life pharmacy of his own wasn’t even “on his radar.”
Apparently, however, God had other designs in mind for Martian and his career, and it would just take some time for them to all pan out.
“Around that time, Tammy and I really wanted to become natural family planning (NFP) instructors for the Couple to Couple League,” he recalled. “To do so, we had to sign a statement that said we promised to have no cooperation with artificial birth control whatsoever. I said to myself, ‘I can’t sign this!’ So I called them up and explained that I was going to be a pharmacist and I’d have to dispense it.”
Thanks to the strong convictions of the Couple to Couple League, however, Martian wasn’t let off the hook.
“They wouldn’t budge or bend the rules for me, and it rubbed me the wrong way,” he said. “The president even called me and asked me to train, but said they couldn’t let me teach if I was going to be dispensing birth control. At the time, I thought they were going too far, but now when I look back, I am very grateful for what they did.”
With the help of God’s providential wisdom and grace, another path was laid out for Martian after he encountered this roadblock.
“On my lunch break, I would usually call Tammy and then listen to Catholic radio, but one day, I just turned the radio on without calling her first,” he said. “Then I was so surprised to hear Tammy call in to the Doctor Is In [on EWTN Radio] and say that her husband was going to be a pharmacist and ask what he should do about birth control. The host just simply said, ‘I don’t know what he should do, but if you just pray, God will find a job for him.’ I was mad at him for saying that. It just seemed too simple, like he didn’t understand.”
Nevertheless, his faith-filled response prompted Martian to call the National Bioethics Center; and, amazingly, he was connected directly to Father Tad Pacholczyk, one of the world’s foremost Catholic bioethicists.
“I don’t even think he normally takes calls, but he took the time to talk to me for 30 minutes,” Martian said. “He totally knocked me off my feet, and I knew my life was never going to be the same. Afterwards, I really started praying about it and told God I would trust in him.”
Soon after that, he found himself at a career fair in Fargo, North Dakota, trying to dodge a wholesale distributor who was approaching him.
“I didn’t feel like talking to him, but, thankfully, he pursued me and asked me if I was interested in opening up my own pharmacy,” he explained. “I told him, ‘I suppose so’ since I didn’t know what else to do because I didn’t want to dispense birth control. He said, ‘I have a client in Bismarck, North Dakota, who believes the same thing.’ I was totally amazed. I had never even realized that there was a pro-life pharmacy next to my hometown. The way God provided me the information was incredible!”
One open door led to another, and Martian eventually found himself working at Mayo Pharmacy.
“At first, he didn’t have a job for me, but then one just happened to open up,” he said of Daniel Mayo, the pro-life pharmacist and namesake of Mayo Pharmacy. “Since 1993, the owner had held a personal conviction not to carry birth control. I began to share his convictions more and more. I cannot dispense it in good conscience, knowing how it has facilitated the use of women and of people using each other sexually. It destroys relationships and has been such a terrible thing for our culture on a moral level.”
Today, Martian has found that holding to these strong convictions is actually not hindering his business financially or socially at all.
“Our pharmacy does just fine without it,” he said. “We are satisfied with how our business is doing. We have remodeled twice and extended our space. We are adding in other Catholic employees and are planning on expanding our services to serve our community.”
In fact, those who know Martian can vouch for what a tremendous blessing his pharmacy is in the local community and beyond.
“Of all the businesses in Bismarck, I just can’t say enough about Mayo Pharmacy,” said longtime customer Mike Conlin. “It epitomizes what our Catholic faith is all about. Kevin has attracted employees who believe in what he believes in and who express their Christian love on a daily basis. His statement is pro-life, pro-woman and pro-family, and he lives up to it. The type of operation he runs is very much needed in our community. It is helping keep Christianity alive around here.”
According to Father Wayne Sattler, pastor of St. Anne Catholic Church in Bismarck, the pharmacy is about far more than dispensing pharmaceuticals.
“I have come to know Kevin as both my pharmacist and brother in Christ,” Father Sattler said. “When you enter Mayo Pharmacy, it is apparent that it is clearly not a drug store. It is a committed effort to assist the well-being of the human person: body, mind and soul. Although one would typically first come there with concern to their body and having their prescription filled, what they will first encounter is actually the pharmacy’s concern for their soul by the presence of a full religious bookstore in their foyer.”
By working as a team, they further the cause of life in an extraordinary way.
“This care for their soul and mind is then carried forth through the hearts of the staff Kevin has attracted to this mission,” Father Sattler observed. “I say ‘mission’ with emphasis, for the fact that Mayo Pharmacy does not fill prescriptions for birth control is simply consistent with their commitment to the true well-being of the whole person. It takes courage to do what is truly best for the human person. Kevin and his staff stand as an inspiration to what the world around us can and should look like when our commitment to Christ and his gospel of life is consistent and seamless.”
In an article titled “Contraception: Fatal to the Faith,” renowned theologian and Servant of God Father John Hardon stated, “The grave sinfulness of contraception is taught infallibly by the Church’s ordinary universal teaching authority.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church instructs that contraception is “intrinsically evil.”
When asked how he would encourage other pharmacists who are considering taking a fully pro-life approach, Martian had some helpful advice to share:
“I would tell them to contact the National Catholic Bioethics Center and visit their website at NCBCenter.org. I would also say to truly pray about it and trust that God will take care of them. It will be a challenge, but depending on their scenario, they may be surprised how well their employer will accommodate their convictions. Just like that Catholic radio host said to my wife, if you pray about it, God will provide. Don’t put him in a box.”
To find a pro-life pharmacist in your area, visit the website for Pharmacists for Life.
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