Msgr. Cassato Honored as Priest, Pastor and Chaplain





Msgr. Cassato Honored as Priest, Pastor and Chaplain

June 26, 2019

Msgr. David Cassato, right, at the Josephine Foundation Follow Your Dreams dinner with Msgr. Jamie Gigantiello, vicar for development of the Diocese of Brooklyn. (Photo: Mike Rizzo)

By Michael Rizzo

“Why me?”

That’s the question Msgr. David Cassato, pastor of St. Athanasius Church, Bensonhurst, said he asked when he was told that he had been selected as a chairman’s honoree for the Josephine Foundation Follow Your Dreams dinner on June 21 at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury, N.Y.

Andrew Koslosky, Chairman of the foundation, had the answer when he introduced Msgr. Cassato to the evening’s more than 300 attendees. He cited Msgr. Cassato’s work as a priest, pastor and NYPD chaplain.

Koslosky said Msgr. Cassato embodied the spirit of the Josephine Foundation and, like the other honorees, served “God and all His people.”

“He’s got a direct line to the man above,” Koslosky said later, pointing his finger heavenward. “He’s revered by the communities where he’s served. He’s compassionate. He’s a leader.”

Msgr. Cassato said he saw the honor as less about him and more about helping the causes of the foundation — which, among other things, supports the Bishop Mugavero Residence for Retired Priests at the Immaculate Conception Center (ICC) in Douglaston.

“They help the senior priests,” Msgr. Cassato said. “And I’m becoming one soon,” the 72-year-old added. “But they also get young people to develop their talents. They do it through the arts. They work at having young people develop skills that they can bring forward to other parts of their lives.”

The Josephine Foundation provides grants to groups that conduct arts and sports activities. The foundation has staged theatrical productions at ICC and has donated funds to the Center. It also supports groups at parishes throughout the Diocese of Brooklyn and said it has given away more than $4 million in grants since its awards dinner began 17 years ago.

“This is for a lifetime of work, not just one thing,” said Charles Bertolami, a lifelong parishioner from St. Rita’s in Long Island City who said he met Msgr. Cassato when the new priest was assigned there in 1972. “He’s an inspiration.”

“He listens. He’s attracted to people who have needs and he wants to assist them. He’s an everyday person and when he meets you he comes to your level.”

Cassato family representatives included monsignor’s niece, Eileen Cassato Durante who grew up in St. Jude parish in Canarsie but now lives in St. Francis de Sales parish in Belle Harbor.

“He’s dedicated,” she said of her uncle as her father, Robert, monsignor’s brother, stood nearby. “He gives back much more than he gets. It’s in his heart. It’s an honor to be here to see him being honored.”

There were no acceptance speeches but Msgr. Cassato made a point to congratulate fellow award winner Bob Reid who was honored, in part, for his support of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Academy in Bayside.

Msgr. Cassato heaped praise on all his fellow honorees.

“There are many others more influential than me,” he said. “But I want to use this to let people to know about the good work this Foundation does.”

Good works by Msgr. Cassato himself can come in unexpected ways and one occurred even before he was ordained. His friend Richard Forte said when his own younger brother was born, his mother was unsure what to name her new son.

She decided on David. Her inspiration? The living example of Richard’s 14-year-old friend David Cassato.

“The shepherd in him wants to change the culture for the better,” Koslosky said when asked what people should know about Msgr. Cassato.

It was another answer to the question of “why me?”

Tags: BensonhurstBrooklynCassatoDiocese of BrooklynMsgr. CassatoSt. Athanasius – Bensonhurst BrooklynSt. Athanasius Church, The Josephine Foundation

A Board Member’s Perspective

Hi All, Welcome to A Board Member’s Perspective

We hope you are getting excited and prepared for a great summer as it is certainly fast approaching.  It gives me great pleasure this month to share with you a fantastic event I had the honor of attending.  On Monday June 10th our very own Advisory Board Member Clarence “Clyde” Bullard was recognized by The Queens Symphony Orchestra at their Annual Spring Gala for his work in the Arts and with the Youth of Queens and the Greater New York Area.  It was a fantastic evening filled with great entertainment, fantastic food and great people.

Surrounded by music since he was a child, Clyde is the son of Atlantic Records executive Clarence “CB” Bullard, who helped the careers of Paula Abdul, Aretha Franklin, Roberta Flack, The Rolling Stones, and Donny Hathaway, among others. His uncle was Bill Withers, the Grammy Winning singer and songwriter who penned “Lean on Me”.

Clyde is a professional bassist who began his career working for The Joseph Papp Shakespeare Festival Touring production of “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, when its bassist abruptly left the company. Clyde has since played in productions of “Two Gentlemen of Verona”, “Hair”, “Pippin”, “A Chorus Line”, “ Amen Corner”, “The Wiz”, “Bubbling Brown Sugar”, “Godspell”, “Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope” and the list goes on!

During his illustrious career, he performed for 17 years as the bassist for the Boys Choir of Harlem and with notables such as Eddie Murphy, Luba Mason, Ben Vereen, Donna McKechnie, Julie Budd, Gloria Gaynor, Beth Carvalho, ZeZe Motta, Jair Rodriquez, Martha Wash, The Weather Girls, The Delfonics, and Cuba Gooding & The Main Ingredient, and performed at The White House.

His accomplishments are endless and we are all extremely proud and truly blessed to have Clyde on our Advisory Board but more importantly in our lives.

Congratulations Clyde, well deserved !

Al Amico

“In Their Own Words”

“In Their Own Words”

by Caitlyn Reid (2017 Anthony Belluci Scholarship Award Recipient)

Growing up, my dad always wanted me to be on a team, playing a sport and being social. Baseball, softball and cheerleading were teams I were part of but not teams I stuck with. I was on the team but it wasn’t a team that made you feel like you had a second family.

When I was 10, I found my second family when I auditioned for the Andrean Players production of Annie, directed by Paul Canestro- my uncle who had a strong passion for the arts as well. His whole life was spent singing at different events and always a part of different productions. When he got me into musical theatre- I never turned back.

When I was 14,  I was in a production of Peter Pan with the Andrean Players. This time it was being directed by Andrew Koslosky and Kevin Wallace- two people who furthered my love for musical theatre and made me feel at home when on stage. This is when the musical theatre game changed in my eyes- this was some serious stuff. I was taught that leaving my all on stage after a number was a good empty feeling, the butterflies in your stomach mean you care, standing ovations are an indescribable feeling and Kevin Wallace taught me to have as much sass as humanly possible when on stage.

The summer of 2015 was one of my favorite summers as a teenager thus far. I joined the Josephine Foundation and they highlighted my true potential as a performer. I found another theatre family. I met people I consider my best friends now, 3 years later.

Summer of 2017, the summer before I started college, I received the Anthony Belluci Scholarship award- A scholarship awarded to a teenager in education and musical theatre, who helps keep Mr. Belluci’s mission of helping people around you alive. Coming out of high school, I was constantly paranoid about doing well in college and finances in general. This scholarship award lightened the mood of all of this in general and made me realize I must have been doing something right.

Winning this award was such an honor and only stretched my love for musical theatre wider than I knew it could have gone. Being a part of a production family is a decision I’m so happy I was introduced to and something I will forever be thankful for.

Winter Wonderland 2nd Annual Festival of Trees


Winter Wonderland 2nd Annual Festival of Trees

The Josephine Foundation 2nd Annual “Winter Wonderland” St. Mary’s Festival of the Trees was held in December.  The major attraction to the festival was a brilliant display of beautifully decorated Christmas trees.  Many of the trees were sponsored by families, organizations and local businesses with each tree’s decoration uniquely themed based on the sponsor’s favorite Christmas Carol.

The festival was opened to the public on December 1st and 2nd where guests had the opportunity to meet/greet and take pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus in front of their cherished fireplace. Guests also enjoyed live entertainment from the students of the SMHS Performing Arts Department and from various surrounding area choirs and popular performers.

The event also offered for purchase, beautifully decorated hand-made wreaths, Christmas crafts and delicious holiday desserts from the Sweet Shoppe.  The guests also participated in  a special fun-filled holiday scavenger hunt. This event was once again a tremendous success enjoyed by all who attended! It was truly a magical and beautiful way to celebrate the Christmas season. All proceeds raised benefitted the St. Mary’s High School Performing Arts Scholarship Fund.



From the Chairman’s Desk

From The Chairman’s Desk

I sincerely hope you all had a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and wishing you all a Happy Healthy 2019. In this fast paced world we are living in today, we sometimes forget all the wonderful things we have to be thankful for. I hope we all took time to step back to look at the overall picture, and be thankful for the family, friends, gifts, talents, and opportunities we have been blessed with. I am certainly thankful for all the wonderful people I have met while working within our mission at The Josephine Foundation. Please do always keep in mind our extended families and all who are dealing with various struggles and also those who are dealing with illness, bereavement and other issues.  Remember to reach out to all of our brothers and sisters, keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.  Please remember we are all one family.

We, as an organization, have been blessed and have much to be thankful for. Our programs and mission work has been very successful since our official beginnings in 2002. You should all be very proud of this. The difference our programs make in today’s difficult and divided world, is very important. When I look at these last few months and the 2018 year, a very serious message is there for all of us to take time to think about and reflect on.

We are surrounded by poor leadership in both government and sadly even in areas that we have traditionally used to draw strength from…our religious. We are sadly divided as a country, not on the issues, but ideology, as if one way of thinking will solve all the issues of the world. There is little respect for different opinions and even less desire to work together. The family structure, roles, values and traditions have little value in this world that has no structure or reasoning. For those few who still maintain the strong values and beliefs, who are leaders, and who dedicate their time to causes that are in need…I am starting to see a feeling of frustration and overall exhaustion, as the leaders we deal with at every level of our lives continue to make faulty choices and act in ways unbecoming of their title or responsibilities. Because of this, it is essential that we remember how important it is to be passionate about our beliefs, and why we are so. We will always meet leaders who will disappoint us in life. Politicians will always find ways to disappoint us, but never will they be our excuse for not respecting what our country stands for. The same goes for our religious. Scandal by a human is not an excuse to abandon the teachings and beliefs of our creators. Moments when we feel unappreciated for all our hard work, or feel like we are taken for granted…must be resolved with a picture frozen in our minds of that one person who our work with, might have helped. Never allow those who are doing things for the wrong reasons to influence your decision to lead and dedicate to those causes you believe in.

We are, always have been, and always will be, the strength of our country, of our world and of our religious communities…and we must never forget it.

My wish for you all this  New Year, is Peace in life, Strength to maintain and believe in your core convictions, and the blessings of Laughter and Love in your life.


Andrew J Koslosky

Chairman of the Board

The Josephine Foundation

Board Member Highlight

Board Member Highlight John Schnakenberg

by Giovanni Vittozzi


One of our distinguished board members of the Josephine Foundation is Mr. John Schnakenberg.

John was born and raised in Queens, NY and as a young man he joined the carpenter’s union and was an active member for over 55 years. He also worked 4 years as an apprentice carpenter, at the end of which he became a journeyman carpenter.  From there he worked his way up the ladder and went from a shop steward to general foreman and then superintendent.  John also held multiple officer positions within the union.

He was involved in many high profile construction projects during his years with the carpenter’s union, some examples are: The renovation of the original Yankee Stadium, The NYC Police Academy, Our Famed Nassau Coliseum, The Olympic Tower in NYC, and many JFK Airport Renovation projects.

John’s family includes a mother and father, sister, son, daughter, and wife, all of whom have passed on. He has a grandson, a granddaughter and two great grandsons that are all very special to him who he loves very very much. John’s mother, Dorothy Schnakenberg (Grandma) was a very special advocate of the arts and a dedicated supporter of the Josephine Foundation. She never missed a Josephine Foundation event, even up until her passing at 99 ½ years of age.

Upon his retirement from the union, John formed his and his wife’s construction companies. John and his wife, Barbara Principe, were big supporters of the Josephine Foundation from its inception in 2002 and John eventually became a board member. Barbara was recognized as a Chairman’s Honoree at the Josephine Foundation’s 2008 Follow Your Dreams Gala.

After the passing of his beloved wife, he formed Barbara’s Team of Hope, a nonprofit organization supporting many good causes including The Josephine Foundation’s mission. Their annual golf outing raises funds and awareness of many debilitating and life threatening diseases such as Cancer, Parkinson’s and Heart Disease. The Josephine Foundation also honored Barbara’s passing by naming an award for children in the arts after her. It is given to a child who shows excellence in the arts and conducts themselves as a pro both on and off the stage.

In addition to leading such a successful career in the construction industry, John has nothing short of a heart of gold. He never hesitates to support organized fundraiser events or anyone in need. His one line that always comes to mind is, “Anything to help the kids.”

John has become a strong advocate for the arts by spreading the message of the significant impact that sports and performing arts programs have on the lives of every participant, not just the students.

Most recently, John has retired from all of his companies and currently dedicates his time to both Barbara’s Team of Hope and The Josephine Foundation to further the betterment of the community.  He greatly appreciates all the support everyone gives to these two organizations.

JOFO Performs at Lord and Taylor Manhasset

JOFO Performs at Lord and Taylor Manhasset

Performers from the Josephine Foundation were invited to the Lord and Taylor Manhasset store on November 10th, 2018 and took part in the celebration marking the conclusion of their recent remodeling. Staff and shoppers alike were treated to a medley of musical standards in the new lofty glass entrance atrium. Sophy Rodriguez, Ariana Barlas, Alessandra Barlas, Giovanni Vittozzi, Marco Vittozzi, Melanie Henderson, Jacqueline Doody, Kent Williams, Rosario Amico, and Paul Inglese were joined and accompanied by Patrick White on keyboards and Brian Woodruff on Drums. The audience remarked on how beautifully the music highlighted the grand new space which opened just in time for the start of the holiday shopping season.

A View from Backstage by Peter Carrozzo

A View from Backstage by Peter Carrozzo

The staging of a theatrical production requires an extraordinary number of small, medium and large things to happen over a ridiculously short time. So many of these things seem to occur effortlessly, as if while everyone sleeps, enchanted theatre elves work to ensure each aspect of the show comes together. Sadly, that is not the case. In truth, there are moments when the theatre elves have helped me. Usually this occurs at midnight with opening night less that twenty four hours away while I’m trying to fix a piece of scenery and I need a piece of one by two that is 21.5 inches long but I’m pretty sure there is absolutely no material left. Miraculously, in those moments I find backstage that exact size piece of wood. I am confident the theatre elves feel sympathy for my plight and decide to help me at my lowest moments of despair. (They’re not to be confused with the theatre gremlins who work against me but I’ll save their tales for another issue.) Today I would like to write about one of the things that must occur in order to stage a show: the Home Depot run.

No one has ever gone to see a show and said after the applause and accolades “the material that the scenery was made out of was great, who bought it?” Really, who cares how many two by fours were used to make the sets? Who cares whether the flats were made from luan (light and easy to use) or quarter inch plywood (heavier but sturdier) or half inch plywood (warning may cause hernias). But these decisions and these purchases are vital to a production. Perhaps you readers remember the Broadway Blockbusters’ legendary production of Les Miserables? Well the construction of the scenery for that show began one hot Saturday morning in June with an uncelebrated Home Depot run and several iced coffees.

How do we decide what to purchase? It’s an exact scientific process honed over the course of numerous productions. Sketches are drawn on the backs of half torn envelopes, crumpled Con Edison bills and partially used fast food napkins. On each sketch is a list of material needed for each set piece. When the sketches are complete, we total up all the material needed and write up a list on the back of a CVS receipt (the length of the receipt works well for big productions). Then we overestimate. If the total comes to ten sheets of luan we get 15. If we need 40 two by fours we get 50. Yet we always run out of material or forget something and go back to Home Depot for the inevitable and even less celebrated “Follow Up Home Depot Run for the Material I Forgot to Buy or Underestimated the Amount I Needed.”

With the list complete, the next step is borrowing my father-in-law’s pickup truck, and sometimes my father-in-law. Then we run through Home Depot grabbing stuff, like in a supermarket shopping game show contest to see how much stuff you can fill up in your cart in 60 seconds while fighting to roll a cart with an obligatory broken wheel. The process continues: the pickup truck is loaded, we drive away, we stop because we forgot to tie down the material, we retrieve the items that fell out, we tie down the material, drive to the theatre, and unload the material in a space too small to fit the material. Usually, Advil and a heating pad come into play at some point. With the material in place, construction begins (sprinkle in some injuries, lost hair, stress, and a few requests from Mr. Koslosky for when it will be done) and soon the set is complete. Almost as if choreographed, as the sets come together, the songs, dances and blocking are mastered—and opening night arrives. Just as quickly as the process begins, it ends and it is time for the theatrical production’s final and least heralded step: the “throwing most of the scenery in the dumpster” stage. Maybe it all seems like a sick torturous circle of life when you see the process go from new lumber to scenery to the dumpster in a few weeks. The same can be said for every aspect of a show—months of work for a couple of weekends of shows—but the journey sure is fun.








Scenes from a since forgotten Home Depot run. Circa 2018

Reconnecting through the JOFO… David Barlas

Reconnecting through the JOFO… David Barlas

The Josephine Foundation’s mission is to bring together people with a common interest so they can work together and achieve great things. Sometimes, though, something happens that goes beyond that – like what happened at the JOFO Gala a few years back.

At the annual Gala at the Crest Hollow Country Club, the Queens Starlight Orchestra was playing their sublime medley of hits and the gathered crowd was loving it. I used to play “big band” trumpet in high school myself, so I was checking out the band up close. A sax player up front looked vaguely familiar to me, but I couldn’t place him at first. Then, during a set break I figured it out. I said, “Dean, is that you?”


Right then, we went back 24 years to 1992. I first met Dean Saghafi when we were newly minted doctors starting our internship year at SUNY Stony Brook University Hospital. He was doing internal medicine and I was in emergency medicine, and we shared a lot of experiences treating patients young and old, sick and sicker, and remembered many days that didn’t seem to end. Dean was memorable to all of us back then because he was so outgoing, he always came over to help you, and he clearly exuded a love of music. We got through that first year in one piece, and was surprised and saddened to find out that Dean had chosen to leave and pursue other interests. I completed the remainder of my training and we unfortunately fell out of touch.

As fate would have it, we met and reconnected on that night like it was 1992 again, and I was glad to learn that Dean had followed his dream to do the two things he loves most – teaching (honors biology) and living his dream (leading a jazz band – a really good jazz band). More importantly, Dean had remained just as outgoing and high-spirited as when we had last worked together.

The story comes full circle when Dean invited me to visit his honors biology club at Lincoln High School in Yonkers. Many of his students are aiming for a career in medicine, and I was privileged to give them a firsthand account about the ups and downs of life as a physician. They had a lot of questions about the process, the education, and the career that really impressed me and I hope I inspired them to keep following their dreams. Dean was mentoring a truly bright group students and could tell that many of them were headed towards a bright future.

If that doesn’t embody the spirit of the Josephine Foundation, I don’t know what does!

Editor’s Message

Happy 2019 everyone and welcome to another edition of our newsletter!

It’s time to wave a goodbye to the old & embrace the new, full of hope, dreams and ambitions.  As we reflect on 2018 and think about our 2019 goals, it’s important to remind ourselves of some of the skills (The Three C’s) promoted by the arts which are important not only in academic success but life success!

  • Creativity – Giving children an opportunity to practice creative thinking, will prepare them to think naturally in their future career.
  • Confidence – Training in the arts gives children the required practice and experience to step out of their comfort zone.  It offers the opportunity for them to make mistakes and learn from them and ultimately to perform in front of large amounts of people.
  • Collaboration – Through the arts children practice working together learning the importance of their contribution towards a common goal.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and we hope you enjoy our content and most importantly share it with your friends and families.

Hope to see you at our next event.


Al Amico

JOFO Board Member