Mom is Racing With God
National Catholic Register Feb. 5-11, 2006
By Gina Giambrone
When Sharbel Dussault proposed to his childhood sweetheart, Rebecca Quinn, in 1999, neither of them knew the adventure that lay ahead. Six years later, Sharbel, Rebecca and their three year old son Tabor are in the midst of a unique journey. This young family is traveling the world together as Rebecca pursues her dream of being on the U.S. women's cross country ski team for the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy this February.
Their love story began when they were eleven years old. Sharbel's mother homeschooled both of them. During these years, the youngsters formed a solid friendship. By age fifteen, they were looking forward to marriage. "We felt a strong bond of friendship we knew would last into marriage and until death," Rebecca recalls. "We knew we were made for each other unto our eternal betterment."
When they married at nineteen years old, Rebecca was on her way to becoming the nation's fastest woman skiier, but she planned to finish her racing career shortly after the wedding. "I hung up the skis and was pretty sure I would never take them up at an elite level again," she says.
Skiing had been part of Rebecca's life for years. During her early days as part of the skiing community in Gunnison, Colorado, the families involved had a positive influence on her. She loved being surrounded by the beauty of God's creation while she was skiing. There was also a distinctly Catholic element to her experience. "We used to go skiing in the middle of the night with a group from our Church and our priest, who was an avid outdoorsman," she recalls. "He would celebrate Mass for us in the moonlight."
Thanks to the Catholic formation from her homeschooling, Rebecca's faith had a strong foundation. "The more I began to learn about the Church, the more there was for me to love," she says. She wanted to live out her Catholic faith, as did her classmate, Sharbel. "Having the same faith formation as my eventual spouse has had unbelievable advantages," Rebecca says. "It was never a question as to whether or not we would fully embrace the Church's teachings."
But there was the question of whether to continue ski racing. Coaches were telling Rebecca she could be one of the best in the world, and that she had more talent than they had ever seen. But Rebecca knew this was not the source of happiness, fulfillment or living according to God's will. "I was convicted by the Lord that He wanted more of me than I was giving to Him and that ultimately I would have to leave skiing to attain this gift of self," she says.
At the upper levels of ski competition, Rebecca faced the challenge of sharing an authentic witness of her Catholic faith with coaches and teammates. During training and competitions in Europe, Rebecca would give up the team dinners on Saturday nights to attend Mass since she raced on Sundays. Along with such sacrifices, she also encountered direct opposition. The young male skiers used to drill her about the meaning of the chastity ring on her finger. "These challenges were hard for me as the lone Christian," she says, "but it was a chance to speak about our Lord and his plan for our bodies and our souls."
Rebecca left the world of competitive skiing behind, not expecting to return. She and Sharbel became partners in his family's business. They gave birth to a child, which has been an "immeasurable joy" according to Rebecca, one which she and Sharbel pray they will experience again soon. Shortly after Tabor was born, Rebecca attended the Olympics in Salt Lake City and watched as her former teammates competed. Holding her son in her lap, she told herself he was her gold medal.
It was not until three years after giving up the sport that Rebecca decided to pursue it again. In a local collegiate race, Rebecca beat the unbeatable NCAA Champion from Estonia. "Sharbel and I saw something in me that day that lit a fire in our hearts. We earnestly searched our souls and prayed about me getting back into ski racing," she recalls.
Now, Rebecca is back in full swing. Traveling with Sharbel and Tabor, she reveals to other women athletes that being a wife and mother does not mean the loss of one's dreams. Since 2004, she has won eight national titles, competed in the World Cup in Europe and skiied for the U.S. in the world championships. The family of three has traveled to Alaska, New Zealand, and Canada for training and races. They also attended World Youth Day this summer, stopping in Italy to visit the home of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom Rebecca and Sharbel have chosen at the Patron of their journey to the Olympics.
This journey is intimately tied to their faith. Fr. Antoine Thomas of the Community of Saint John, who married Sharbel and Rebecca, admires their efforts to maintain a strong prayer life, as well as their devotion to Eucharistic adoration and Mass. "To have a world class athlete like Rebecca openly declaring her Catholic faith and life in the middle of so many people - coaches, athletes, olympic staff - is certainly pleasing to Jesus," says Fr. Thomas.
While they hope Rebecca will succeed athletically, this is not their ultimate goal. Their real desire is to exemplify the joy of embracing the Catholic vision of marriage and the family.
"Our family has been a silent witness to the vocation of marriage amongst team members, staff, and perfect strangers," says Sharbel. "It is very rare for a family to be seen traveling on the race circuit. We have been confronted and challenged to share our faith and our reasons for doing this as a family. We are committed to our marriage and family life. Nothing is more important than keeping our marriage strong and healthy."
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