By EmmaLee Italia | Contributing Editor

The 29th annual Champions for Life dinner Oct. 28 will recognize two stalwart defenders of life who have advocated for the unborn and their mothers throughout the Diocese of Trenton.

Rachel Hendricks, diocesan respect life coordinator, will be honored as “Champion for Life,” and Divine Word Father Martin Padovani, counselor and psychologist, will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award.

“I am honored to be the 2018 recipient and to be in such great company with the incredible individuals and families who have received this awards over the past three decades,” Hendricks said. “One of the many beautiful aspects about the dinner is the involvement and attendance of dozens teenage youth. As I accept this honor, I hope to inspire these teens and young adults to become more engaged in and educated about life issues, especially abortion, women’s health and fertility, and end-of-life issues like doctor-assisted suicide.”

Dinner will be at Doolan’s Shore Club, 700 Hwy. 71, Spring Lake Heights, beginning with a cash bar reception at 5 p.m. followed by a buffet dinner at 6 p.m. The event is sponsored by Mary’s Child Pro-Life Ministry, a ministry composed of volunteers from the Monmouth county parishes of St. Catharine-St. Margaret, Spring Lake; St. Denis, Manasquan; St. Teresa of Calcutta, Avon by the Sea; Holy Innocents, Neptune; St. Mark, Sea Girt, and St. Rose, Belmar.

“Mary’s Child Pro-Life Ministry is committed to affirming the dignity of human life,” said Steve Kenny, Mary’s Child president. “We advocate, prayerfully and actively, for the protection and respect of every human person from conception until natural death.”

Added Hendricks, “Mary’s Child Pro-Life Ministry is full of dedicated, compassionate and informed warriors for our faith, and I am very humbled to be recognized by them in this way.” 

A mother of five children, Hendricks has devoted a substantial amount of time to the Mary’s Child Pro-Life Ministry, organizing speakers for life to come to the area, presenting pro-life films such as “40” with panel discussions in the participating parishes and schools, as well as organizing groups of high school students to attend the annual March for Life.

“Rachel is an inspiration to our ministry and an example of motherhood in the Catholic faith,” Kenny said. “While raising a family of her own, she has made it a mission to advocate and educate on the topic of abortion.”

Hendricks has also been known for bringing her “Truth Booth” – which shows the development of a baby in utero – to many parishes and school events. Additionally, she established a garden at St. Denis, where those who have experienced loss via abortion or miscarriage can plant a bulb as a memorial.

“Rachel has demonstrated profound support for mothers who are in the throes of a wrenching decision, or have already experienced loss,” Kenny continued. “She supports and advocates for Rachel’s Vineyard and Joan’s Reach … [she] is living the Gospel.”

A member of the Divine Word Missionaries since 1970, Father Padovani has become well-known as a counselor and author. He is a masters-accredited family and marriage counselor, and has authored “Healing Wounded Relationships” and “Healing Wounded Emotions.”

“Father Padovani has spent a lifetime bringing compassion and guidance to the most vulnerable and broken,” Kenny noted. “We have gotten to know him as a long-time visiting priest. He has an incredible and dedicated following among the laity of our parishes, and a great part of that is due to his authentic compassion for the vulnerability and dignity of the human person.”

“We honor Father Padovani for his willingness to defend life from the pulpit,” Kenny continued, “and to minister to the wounded mothers and families that need forgiveness and support as they seek healing from their own decisions and actions. He brings the healing power of Christ to all.”

Cost for the dinner is $55 for adults, $35 for students and $20 for children. Reservations are required by Oct. 15 at Checks should be made payable and mailed to Mary’s Child Pro-Life Ministry, c/o St. Catharine Parish, 215 Essex Ave., Spring Lake, NJ 07762. For more information, call Kenny at 201-221-6497.