For more than two decades, Msgr. David Cassato has been entrenched in the community life of St. Athanasius parish, Bensonhurst, where he serves as pastor.
His impact has been so extensive that the parish’s sports program decided to bestow a tremendous honor upon the longtime monsignor.
On April 2, St. Athanasius formally dedicated its basketball court to Msgr. Cassato. Nearly 150 parishioners, family members, and young athletes in their uniforms gathered during basketball playoff weekend to celebrate Msgr. Cassato’s dedication to his parish.
Bill Finn, president of the St. Athanasius sports program, presided over the ceremony. Msgr. Cassato was overwhelmed with joy as he spoke about the connection between the gymnasium and the church and how it serves as a central hub of parish life.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, a water leak damaged the gymnasium floor. Since school was closed, no one noticed the leak for quite some time. Despite efforts to dry out the floor, the wood became too warped and had to be replaced completely.
As the project kicked off, Finn had the idea to rename the basketball court after Msgr. Cassato, who has been a huge supporter of the parish’s sports program since he arrived in late 2001.
“We did not ask for his permission; we just did it,” said Joe Orlando, St. Athanasius sports program director and vice president.
Indoor basketball at the parish did not resume until this past fall, allowing ample time for the new floor to be constructed. Once he found out that basketball would resume, Msgr. Cassato went to check out the new floor – ultimately revealing what was supposed to be a surprise.
“I went down to the gym one day to make sure it was completed properly, and I looked down and saw my name on the floor. I said, ‘I didn’t die yet!’” the monsignor said in jest.
“I do it because I love what I do. And then I was shocked that I was being honored with the court naming.”
Msgr. Cassato said he is so grateful for the dedicated parishioners who run the sports program and create such a positive environment for the children. He often speaks about how sports add to the overall wellness of a child’s development through activities that are spiritual, physical, and emotional.
“I’m very proud of their great work,” Msgr. Cassato said. “They are the backbone of the sports program, and every parish needs a sports program. It’s a way to attract people back to church. Families that pray together stay together.”
As a sports fan himself, Msgr. Cassato knows how important playing sports can be in a child’s life. He can often be seen popping into the gym to say hello as he walks from the parish rectory to the church.
“They all look up to him,” Orlando said. “They love him. He uses coming to the baseball, softball, soccer fields and basketball courts as a way to evangelize.”
Years from now, today’s children at St. Athanasius will hopefully be able to pass along the stories of how the monsignor supported their athletic journey through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Even if just one young basketball player asks about Msgr. David Cassato, that would be enough to continue celebrating his enduring legacy at the parish.
Contact Jim Mancari via email at email@example.com.