Mario Minervini speaks about pro-life issues and the Rosary to people walking along the boardwalk in August 2019. Jennifer Mauro photo
Mario Minervini speaks about pro-life issues and the Rosary to people walking along the boardwalk in August 2019. Jennifer Mauro photo

Words don’t fail Respect Life champions in the Diocese when they reflect on the life of Mario Minervini, who died Sept. 28 at age 96.

They recall Minervini, of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River, as an “incredible man” devoted to protecting life at all stages. From 2008 to 2016, he led the daily vigil outside a Route 37 abortion facility in Toms River until it finally closed. He later stood vigil outside Planned Parenthood in Shrewsbury, inspiring faithful in Monmouth County to take part in their own Respect Life ministries. He was also committed to a range of pro-life efforts including “40 Days for Life.”

All the while, he was capable of reaching out to those seeking abortion in ways that changed hearts and saved lives.

“He was good at sidewalk counseling,” said Al Kosikowski, also of St. Joseph Parish, who got to know Minervini more than 10 years ago when Minervini was looking for volunteers to join him at the vigil he started after his wife, Teresa Ann, died.

“He decided to go on his own to the [Toms River] clinic and pray in front of it,” Kosikowski said. “He didn’t just go for a half-hour; he went from opening to closing, and they were open six days a week. He was by himself at first.”

Gradually, others joined in.

Albert Deltufo, a member of the Knights of Columbus in St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, praised Minervini’s devotion. “There wasn’t a day he wasn’t out there, whether in rain or snow,” Deltufo said. “He was solely responsible for keeping the group together. I always said he was the main reason for getting [the Toms River clinic] shut down. After that, he started to go to Shrewsbury.”

The effort expanded when the group got involved with the 40 Days for Life campaign.

There were meetings with diocesan Respect Life staff, a letter-writing campaign to parishes throughout Ocean County, and eventually, “a majority of parishes in Ocean County got involved,” said Kosikowski, noting that Minervini was a longtime member of the Ocean County and NJ Right to Life.

He was a mentor to many in the pro-life movement, including Susan Higgins, who met Minervini early in her journey to the faith at St. Barnabas Parish, Bayville. She said she came to regard him as a role model and friend. Higgins described his outreach efforts to those in crisis pregnancies as notable for their sensitive and caring approach.

Indeed, Minervini could be seen all over Ocean County and beyond handing out age-appropriate educational materials and discussing pro-life issues such as abortion, adoption and physician-assisted suicide. He was quoted as saying, “Education is key in pro-life work.”

In addition, he was known for speaking and praying with women entering clinics for an abortion. “If we can help these women with their problems, they see a way out,” he once said. “Help the women, save the baby.”

Humility was the quality cited by Father James O’Neill, Ocean County Respect Life chaplain, when talking about Minervini’s efforts, especially his sidewalk outreach. “Humility is the most crucial to sidewalk outreach. He was not in your face.”

Father O’Neill, pastor of St. John Parish, Lakehurst, called Minervini an inspiration for many, especially seniors. “A lot of older people are wondering what they can do to be faithful to the Lord. Mario is a good example of what’s possible.”

He inspired all generations, however. In a 2019 article in The Monitor, Dave Parnell, then 40, of St. Anthony of Padua Parish, Red Bank, was attending a Rosary for Life on the Seaside Heights Boardwalk as he spoke about getting to know Minervini and the other senior pro-life advocates he worked with. Parnell had first seen them outside the Planned Parenthood in Shrewsbury, a group in their 60s, standing in the rain.

“It made me think, ‘They’re out there and I’m not?’” he was quoted as saying. Minervini inspired him to start organizing a Respect Life committee in his parish.

A pipefitter and welder for 27 years for Ciba-Geigy in Toms River before he retired in 1986, Minervini served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He is survived by his daughters, Terry Cieri (Bobby), Maureen Gachina, Doretta Carbone (Michael), six grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.