Mary Mullins at the Catholic Worker, 1979-2003

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When Mary traveled from Atlanta to New York City in 1968 she went to the Catholic Worker house on East First Street in Manhattan. She was directed to the War Resister’s League where she learned about the exodus of young draft-age men to Canada. She had a contact in Toronto and decided to visit the city and see if she could be of help. The day after her arrival in Toronto she learned that her husband in Atlanta had forced her oldest son Randy to return home where his long hair was cut off and he was urged to enroll in a military school. Mary returned to Atlanta and left with Randy for Toronto. This began her involvement with the American exile community in Toronto and eventually led to the founding of the Ragnarokr leather shop. Mary formed a relationship with Philip Mullins and they lived and worked together for the next ten years in the leather shop and at the settlement at the Frostpocket.

Philip was not then a Catholic and, especially after she moved to Frostpocket, Mary rarely had the opportunity to attend Mass. Nevertheless she and Philip were both interested in and knowledgeable about the Catholic Worker movement and the “social gospel” that it espoused. Philip often told of finding a single copy of the Catholic Worker newspaper on the floor of the abandoned office of a Civil Rights organization in Gainesville, Florida in 1966. Mary knew and was friends with Grace, Miriam and Walter Jarski who opened a Catholic Worker house at 90 Bleeker Street in 1971. The techniques and writings of the Catholic Worker were important guidance for them both in the management of the leather shop and the “farm” at Frostpocket. Thus it was that in September 1979 when she and Philip split up, Mary went again to the Catholic Worker house in New York City.

Mary lived in St. Joseph House on East First Street and helped on the soup line and the clothing pantry. She learned to beg food for the soup line from wholesale grocers and assumed other responsibilities. She drew some of the line drawings that are used in the Catholic Worker newspaper, contributed to the newspaper’s “house columns” and helped in the arduous task of mailing the bi-monthly newspaper to the thousands of subscribers. (insert a link to “Mary at the Catholic Worker”, file 5.8)

When Mary returned to Toronto in the fall of 1984 she became a Toronto contact for those interested in the Catholic Worker movement. In the summer of 1985 two young people, Brit Griffin and Chuck (Charlie) Angus, approached her for help. By October they had opened a Catholic Worker house of hospitality near Queen Street East in the South Riverdale neighborhood of Toronto. The house of hospitality quickly filled to capacity and in February 1986 Chuck and Brit rented a storefront on Queen Street East from which they hoped to distribute food and clothing to needy people living in the area. When they began to publish a newspaper, “The Angelus”, Mary drew the newspaper’s masthead. (insert a link to “The Angelus House”, file 5.10)

In 1986, when the leather shop moved to its new location on Queen Street, Chuck and Brit assisted Bob Rauton, Morley Yan and Philip Mullins with the storefront’s renovation. Until Chuck and Brit left Toronto in 1990, Mary supplied the Catholic Worker Angelus House with donated food from a bakery and sandwich shop on Queen Street West. After the Angelus House closed, Mary took her pastries to a community center near the old Catholic Worker storefront where a number of street people gathered on Sundays to watch wrestling on television. She stayed in contact with the Michano family on the Heron Bay Indian Reservation and continued to minister in her own way to the street people of her neighborhood, especially those of Native American ancestry. She maintains contact with hundreds of friends from the Baldwin Street exile community and in 2003 helped host a Baldwin Street Reunion that commemorated the 35th Anniversary of the opening of the Yellow Ford Truck store.

The narrative continues at The settlement at the Frostpocket after 1980

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