By Rob Abruzzese
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Catholic Lawyers Guild Diocese of Brooklyn Chapter held its 39th annual awards dinner program in Coney Island on Thursday to mark the end of President Sara Gozo’s tenure and to hand out its yearly awards.
The dinner, held at Gargiulo’s Restaurant, was the guild’s best-attended event in years, drawing over 300 people.. The honorees included Rev. Msgr. Kieran Harrington, Hon. Nancy T. Sunshine, Hon. Patricia M. Di Mango, Hon. Lawrence Knipel, and Hon. David B. Vaughan.
"I thought it went very well and I was extremely pleased with the turnout," Gozo said. "There were over 300 people, which is not only a record turnout for our group, but by a huge margin. We really knocked it out of the park."
As it was Gozo’s final act as president of the guild, many on hand praised her for revitalizing the group. Gozo was presented with a Distinguished Service Award by past president Gregory M. LaSpina.
“Sara took on this task when we were reorganizing the constitution,” LaSpina said. “It wasn’t an easy task and in four years, under her leadership, we have flourished. So much goes into organizing these events and from year to year her dedication never dropped off.”
The first to receive an award was Rev. Msgr. Harrington, who was presented with the St. Thomas More Award by Rev. Msgr. Edward B. Scharfenberger.
“St. Thomas More was somebody who, in spite of his position, stayed true to his core values and always followed his beliefs despite what anyone else said,” said Gozo. “We always look for somebody we feel is a good example of that and we really felt that he embodied those principles and ideals.”
Judge Sunshine received the President’s Award which is, unlike the other awards, chosen solely by Gozo. Sunshine is the County Clerk and Commissioner of Jurors of Kings County. She also serves as the Clerk of the Supreme Court. She and her office handle over 7,000 jury summonses each week, 345,000 filings of Supreme Court Documents, and 74,000 filings of county records each year.
“The sheer volume of work that Nancy and her staff do every day is staggering,” Gozo marveled. “They understand their role and its importance to the attorneys in the court and everyone involved, and [they] somehow manage to get everything done with the utmost quality.”
Judge Di Mango was presented with the Distinguished Jurist Award. When presenting her with the award, Gozo emphasized not only her accomplishment of being the first Italian-American woman to be elected to the NYS Supreme Court in the 2nd and 11th Judicial Districts and appointed to the criminal courts in NYC, but also her willingness to contribute to others.
"She has had so many first in her profile, but mainly it was because of her work involving children," Gozo explained. "She sees her role and accomplishments and tries to use them to give back, and we felt that is something that should be recognized."
The Ecumenical Award, which is given each year to somebody who is not of the Catholic faith, was given to Hon. Knipel.
"Our goal as an organization is to bring people together and give back," Gozo said. "At the end of the day, we're all the same with the same core beliefs, no matter what our religion is. We felt like Judge Knipel fosters these same beliefs and the desire to help others."
Judge Vaughan was presented with the Hon. William T. Bellard Award, which was chosen by the late Hon. Bellard’s sons Joseph and William.
"All of the recipients of our awards were similar in that they all are people who consider it their obligation to be role models and give back to others," Gozo said. "They selected Judge Vaughan because he is somebody who knew Judge Bellard and shared the same kind of ideas on their roles and contributions."
The ceremonies were wrapped up as Hon. Matthew D’Emic swore in Joseph S. Rosato as the guild’s next president.
“He’s got a lot to live up to because Sara Gozo did such an amazing job in steering this organization,” Judge D’Emic said. “He's been an exemplary lawyer during his career and is an active member of every organization he is a part of.”