Ed Mullin Is No Mother Teresa

But he did advocate for her mission in one memorable case

Published in 2008 Pennsylvania Super Lawyers — June 2008

Ed Mullin had seen pro bono cases like this play out before—a group proposes a homeless shelter, local officials get skittish, lawyers are called, the group is strong-armed into going away. This time, he pledged, things would be different. For one, St. Patrick's, his hometown church in Norristown, was involved. Second, Mother Teresa—Mother Teresa—was leading the charge.

This was back in November 1984. Mullin, who chairs the real estate and land use department at Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin, heard that St. Patrick's wanted to hand over an unused convent to three nuns who wanted to use it as a soup kitchen and shelter. But local government balked at the plan. He called the parish priest and offered his help.

"I was offended that someone was trying to do something good for the area, and people, for political reasons, tried to turn that down," he says.

Only later did Mullin discover the nuns were part of Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. Mullin spent more than 100 hours over a six-month period arguing that the convent, located in a residential-zoned district, was the nuns' home, and they, as owners, were allowed to have any number and sort of guests they wanted. A zoning board meeting was scheduled to settle matters.

When Mullin and the nuns arrived that evening, he was ready for the worst. Then he opened the door.

"We were like Jesus coming into Palm Sunday," he says of walking into the hearing room. "Everyone was cheering and hooting." It hadn't hurt that Mother Teresa had come to town prior to the hearing to advocate for the nuns (Mullin was out of town that day and missed her). As one could imagine, she persuaded many opponents; one councilman even credited her with healing his aching back. The zoning board approved the shelter.

Lately, Mullin has been dealing with his own bad back. It makes him wonder what might have happened had he met Mother Teresa. But no matter. He's sustained by the memory of three nuns trudging stoically through the snow on their way to the zoning board meeting, wearing only sandals on their bare feet.

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