Bismark Diocese—Many Catholics in the diocese do business with Mayo Pharmacy, owned by Kevin and Tammy Martian, because it is a pro-life pharmacy. The downtown Bismarck business does not sell contraceptive or abortifacient drugs.
There was a time when being a pharmacist was not a challenge to the Catholic faith. But during the 1960s, drug stores began filling prescriptions for contraception, which contradicts Catholic teaching on the gift of sexuality.
Not compromising on Church teaching was a decision that evolved with the pharmacy’s previous owners Dan and Rose Mayo. They had moved to Bismarck from Devils Lake in 1981 for Dan’s job at Finney Drug pharmacy. In 1988, the owner offered them the opportunity to start buying into the business. By 1993, they owned it and changed the name to Mayo Pharmacy. It was a very convenient surname given the notoriety of the medical research center Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Being Catholic matters
“In 1993, when we became owners, I realized it mattered that we are Catholic,” Rose said. “It always bothered me that they sold birth control pills. I knew from my Dad that the Church taught that it was wrong.”
Not carrying contraception would be a big step for a pharmacy, and they were just getting their feet wet as new business owners, but Rose insisted.
“Let’s think about it and revisit it,” Dan told her. A year later in 1994, Rose remained firm that the contraception should go. Dan checked with the State Board of Pharmacy to be sure it would not be a problem. It would not. By then, both Dan and Rose agreed it was important to them as Catholics not to compromise their faith.
As long as they were cleaning house, they also decided to stop selling magazines since so many promoted immorality. Instead, they brought in Catholic books and religious merchandise.
Letters went out to customers that had been using the pharmacy for contraception. “We explained that we are Catholic and following our Catholic values,” Dan said. “We lost one customer who made no secret that he was mad, but we became known around town as the pharmacy that doesn’t dispense birth control.”
One other time, Dan got a call from a man who wanted to get ahold of the abortifacient pill, Plan B. “I told him that we are a prolife pharmacy and don’t carry Plan B,” Dan said. “He was very upset and yelling. I think if he was in person he would have slugged me.”
“I knew we had to do this; it’s our teaching,” Rose said. “I was praying to Mary and just knew that if I put it out there and left Dan alone, he would come around on his own.”
The Mayos said they gained many new customers once word of their commitment to the Church spread. They also gained a new pharmacist in 2004, when Kim Wilson came to them because she heard they did not carry contraceptives.
“She said she was bothered by filling prescriptions for birth control of teenage girls,” Dan said.
Job search challenge
In June 2011, Kevin Martian came to work at the Mayo Pharmacy and he and his wife Tammy became the new owner in March of this year when Dan and Rose retired.
After his freshman year of college at the University of North Dakota, Kevin said he recommitted to his Catholic faith. “I discovered that the Church had the fullness of truth, including the teaching on contraception.” He married Tammy after his sophomore year.
According to Kevin, he initially thought dispensing contraception would not be a problem for him. He had set his sights on working for a larger chain pharmacy in Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, he and Tammy were applying to become Couple to Couple League’s (CCL) sympto-thermo method teachers of Natural Family Planning. To do so, however, Kevin had to sign an agreement as a medical professional to not participate with contraceptives. No amount of debate from Kevin would dissuade the CCL president on the requirement.
Tammy and Kevin continued to seek answers. Tammy called into Catholic radio’s “The Doctor Is In” program with Colleen Kelly Mast. “She made it sound like I shouldn’t dispense birth control and that God would provide, if I was serious about it,” Kevin said. “I didn’t see how that was possible.”
Kevin called the National Catholic Bioethics Center and spoke with Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, director of education. “In thirty minutes, he absolutely blew my mind, because he had a perfect answer to every argument I had for wanting to be able to take a job that required that I dispense contraceptives,” Kevin said.
He lay awake in bed that night wondering how he would ever find a job. Shortly thereafter, Kevin attended the North Dakota State University career fair and discovered that retail pharmacies were not willing to hire someone with his beliefs. But through a chance conversation with a wholesaler, Kevin learned that Mayo Pharmacy shared his Catholic convictions.
“The whole time I had been looking, I didn’t know about the Catholic pro-life pharmacy in Bismarck just seven miles from my hometown of Mandan,” he said. “I met up with Dan and he was great—the pharmacy was complete with a picture of the Pope and it didn’t stock any contraceptives or the like.”
Initially there were no openings, but just as Kevin was ready to interview with a hospital pharmacy, Dan called out of the blue one night to tell Kevin he had an opening. He started there in June of 2011.
“I have never felt so blessed,” Kevin said. “Being free of the burden that I seemed to carry on my conscience while in school, I was able to focus on what I am called to do—serve people.”
When Dan and Rose retired, Kevin and Tammy became the new owners. Although Tammy is busy homeschooling and taking care of their four daughters ages 8, 6, 4, 1, she has been a part of remodeling the storefront to expand their religious goods.
“It was a family adventure,” Tammy explained. “We spent many Saturdays working together. Our older girls were excited to help.”
Often, Tammy and the girls come to visit and help after hours. “We even redid the basement break room to accommodate an occasional family meal complete with high chair and full size table.”
Repost with permission from the Bismarck Diocese, original post November 2, 2017.
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