God & I: Rebecca Dussault

May 06 2024 | by

CAN you tell us something about the religious formation you received as a child?

My formation was solid despite a very progressive and liberal parish setting. I was homeschooled from the age of 13 with my future spouse’s family. Together we traveled to many conferences, etc., even attending World Youth Day around the world, bringing back the catholicity and vibrancy of our orthodox Catholic faith to our family and life in our small town.

If I had grown up thinking that Catholicism was what existed in my parish I’m not sure I would still be Catholic today.

My future mother-in-law was a huge influence because she had a deep personal prayer life. She perpetually led us into prayer using the stories of the saints, Scripture and the Jesus Prayer. We are canonically Byzantine Catholics, with the Jesus Prayer being a very rich part of our tradition, along with the chanted Rosary.


At the age of 17 you were competing on skis all over the world, achieving many victories as a junior. Did you feel satisfied with yourself?

Absolutely. I loved the podium, the opportunity to travel the world, and the challenges. But I loved that as a young girl because my parents’ divorce had rocked my world, and I needed something which would speak life into me again.

However, around the age of 19, I saw the numerous moral pitfalls in all this. I began to question the value of gaining the whole world, but losing my soul.


At the age of 19 you married Sharbel, your childhood sweetheart, and the following year you decided to turn down a full-ride scholarship to many of the nation’s top ski programs. Can you explain the reasons?

I felt very isolated as a Christian in cross-country skiing because, in addition to its highly individualistic element, I was constantly on the defense about my faith and morals. Even the media undermined my Catholicism; if I gave an interview to the local paper I would talk about my faith, but they always left out that part of the interview. Now we have a phrase in the US, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” But that was not the solution I chose, and so instead of joining them I left them after having won a senior USA Championship Title.

Also at that time I wanted to continue my education, but my future-husband’s father had just passed away, leaving his family business unattended. So I married Sharbel, but chose to forgo an academic path to remain home and play a supportive role to my family. I felt the duty to be there for my in-laws and the kids, one of whom was severely handicapped, during this difficult time without their father.


After a three-year break and the birth of your son Tabor, you and your husband saw that the time had come to resume competitive sports. What had changed?

The decision to resume competitive sports was precipitated by an incredible win in a local collegiate ski race. My husband’s estimation of this was that I was not using the full gifting the Lord had given me, and we needed to return to racing as a ‘domestic church.’ We prayed and discerned for two months, and finally realized we could use our sporting to evangelize. Then we approached my sponsors again, and told them that if they wanted me they would have to accept three people: myself, my husband, and our son Tabor, for we would only be traveling as a family. The next 2 and 1/2 years were spent traveling all around the world, and it was an incredible experience.


In February 2006 you participated in the Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy; do you feel you achieved your goals in that sport event?

I raced three of the six cross-country skiing races for women in Turin, but I only partially achieved my goals because I was still receiving treatment from overtraining. My happiest achievement was the spreading of the name of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. I was able to meet Wanda Gawronska, Frassati’s niece, and his sister Luciana the year prior to the Games.


You now have 7 children and a grandson, and I read that you are focusing on other priorities.

Our priorities have shifted since my last professional season in 2014. We now have a 55 acre homestead in Idaho. It’s providing a lot of our food and all of our meat. I am learning to be a gardener, which causes me to slow down and do something in a very calculated, meticulous way. All this is equally challenging and fulfilling. We also recognize that the Lord gave us this land for his uses. It’s undeniable how He placed this property into our hands, and we are developing it to become a spiritual retreat and refuge for other people as well.

We have built an enormous ice skating rink, and my husband painstakingly logged the surrounding area to pave several kilometers of cross country skiing. A former client of mine gave us a snowcat for grooming ski trails. I also homeschool my kids, which is very demanding. In addition I also coach our local mountain biking team and cross country ski team, which are forming my children for sport.


Do you and your husband find it difficult as a couple to share your faith with your children?

No, because we tie everything we do in life to our Catholic faith, but it can be hard to see the kids’ faith budding as fully as we’d like. Whether we’re baking, singing, sporting, traveling or hosting others, we turn the life of ours to point to Christ.

The catechesis is a bit problematic. I got such a wealth of catechesis as a young woman, but in terms of transmitting that to our children we feel we’re falling short. We believe we could be living more liturgically and saying more prayers. We feel we’re always producing the sum of our weaknesses in the lives of our children. We must remain faithful and prayerful ourselves.

Being so close to us every day, our children see us in our raw humanity; as a sinful mother and father. People from afar may see you as an expert and think you have it all together, but your children know the truth. Maybe we are all becoming saints in His ways and in His timing.


What do you love most about the Catholic faith?

I love the timelessness and universality of the Catholic faith. My prayer life becomes more enriched when I take myself back through the various phases of the Church – when I think of the early or of the medieval Church. It is also so beautiful to worship with the exact same Mass and receive the same sacraments anywhere in the world. She, the Church, is quite the mystical bride.


How do you perceive God?

I perceive God as a marriage between justice and mercy. Justice urges me to do the right thing, whereas mercy is there to return me to God when I inevitably don’t do what is right, falling short of the life of grace.

We need this balance as frail human beings. Now those two things, justice and mercy, are married in the person of our Lord. If I thought Christ was all mercy, I would probably not mind it if my actions did not tally with truth and justice, and if I thought Christ was all justice, I would feel there was no way I would ever qualify for the Kingdom. So I have to blend Christ’s mercy and justice in my life daily.


What does God expect of us human beings?

God wants us to be stripped of our egos. God wants us to live for Him. God expects us to not cower before what he invites us to do. He encourages us to do the best we can with what we’ve got; whether we’re cloistered monks or busy mothers, God does not want us to bury our talents. God does not strike any of us with the lightning bolt of clear discernment, but he often gives us a very clear No! We have to be bold and brave, and sacrifice our own comforts to share the Gospel in this hurting world.

He also expects us to pay the cost that comes with spreading the truth, because the truth isn’t popular, and we will be rejected by human beings.

God wants us to be radically evangelical with our lives, whether through words or just living the truth. I will paraphrase Blessed Solanus Casey, saying, “I looked on my whole life as giving, and I wanted to give until there is nothing left of me to give because if I am empty I can then be filled by Christ.” Up until his death, Bl. Casey just kept giving and giving, always thinking that there was still more he could be emptied of, and that’s exactly what God wants of us.


You have a special devotion to Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. What fascinates you about him?

When I first found out about him I was 24 years old, realizing he was 24 at his passing. I had hopes of representing the US at the Olympics in Turin, his home city. I identified with him as a leader of his peers and one who challenged the evil and modernity around him.

I also found that he loved competitive sports. In the picture of him with a race bib and skis, I discovered a lot of parallels between his life and my own. His struggle to evangelize his peers resonated with me, and I love how he did extraordinary things through his ordinary life. He did all this with humility, calling himself Brother Jerome as he went to many households to support families with medicines or even just with his prayerful companionship.

He did not look for a mission field to convert people halfway across the world, he was just boots on the ground where he was. He was able to be such a powerful leader because he wasn’t a compromiser; he never put down his truth to pick up the partial truth of another person, but stuck absolutely to what he knew to be true, and he lived that out. He did that very cunningly at times. For instance he once said, “I’ll play pool with you, but if you lose, you’re coming to adoration with me tonight.”

There is also an interesting episode relating to my Olympic ring with his name on it. When we were moving to Idaho we were using a trailer which contained many of our belongings. During the trip, however, the vehicle broke down and we had to temporarily abandon the trailer in a small field. Thieves broke in and took various items out of the trailer, which was devastating. Now about three years ago someone contacted me and said he had found a ring with the words Olimpiadi Torino 2006 – Sci Fondo – Beato Pier Giorgio Frassati impressed on it. By googling, this person was able to discover that the ring belonged to me, and offered to sell it back to me.

A flood of emotion came over me because that ring represented more than 10,000 hours of my life, blood, sweat and tears to become a cross country champion and a soul sister to Frassati.

Ultimately the ring was shipped back to me and I was able to reunite with my brother in the faith Pier Giorgio Frassati. I became conscious that it was Blessed Frassati who restored that ring back to me in such an interesting twist of the plot.

I have a particular link with this saintly person. About three months ago I was evangelizing students at Coeur du Christ Catholic High School in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and found that the story of Blessed Frassati resonates with the students there because of his sportsmanship qualities. It was Pope St. John Paul II who popularized the figure of Blessed Frassati in the US when he held the World Youth Day in Denver in 1993. He is the man of the beatitudes, much better known today than when I first wrote his name on my skis and raced in the Olympics.


BORN IN Gunnison, Colorado on November 14, 1980, Rebecca Quinn Dussault is an American  cross-country skier who has various national and international titles. Most notably Dussault represented her country in the 2006 Winter Olympics held in Turin, Italy. Dussault is known for her zeal for her faith and active Catholic lifestyle.

Dussault now lives on a homestead in Sandpoint, Idaho, where she homeschools her children. Married for almost 25 years to Sharbel, she now has seven children from ages of 22 years to 11 months old, and a 17 month-old grandson.

Dussault still actively competes in her local region, coaches kids’ teams, and has founded Fit Catholic Mom to serve Catholic mothers to the fullness of their vocation being holy and healthy. Find her online at: www.fitcatholicmom.com, www.rebeccadussault.com and @fitcatholicmom


Updated on May 06 2024