Dominque Dawes loves her new roles in life since becoming the United States’ first Olympic gymnast to win medals at three Olympics.
Ms. Dawes received a Pierre Toussaint Medallion with M. Roger Holland II from the archdiocesan Office of Black Ministry at the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund Awards Dinner at the New York Athletic Club on Nov. 7.
“It’s always an honor to be honored by a Catholic organization that’s doing amazing work like the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund,’’ Ms. Dawes told CNY. “I had the opportunity to meet a number of the recipients and heard the inspiration they’re getting from the financial help and human resources that this organization is able to provide through the Archdiocese of New York.”
Ms. Dawes, 39, is a motivational speaker, who serves as co-chair with NFL quarterback Drew Brees and works closely with first lady Michelle Obama on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. She speaks with pride when discussing her husband Jeff Thompson, a Catholic schoolteacher; their two young daughters Kateri, 2, and Quinn, 1; and her Catholic faith.
“My faith and family definitely do come first,” Ms. Dawes said. “I had to retrain the way that I think. As a gymnast, you’re always judged and judging. You’re always striving for perfection on the balance beam or the floor. As a mom and wife, I recognize that’s not the perfection I need to strive for. It’s the relationship I have with Christ, myself and the others around me.”
Ms. Dawes competed at the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympic games, becoming the first African-American gymnast to win an Olympic gold medal in 1996. She is a member of the United States Olympic Committee’s Hall of Fame.
“I understand God blessed me with the talent,’’ she said. “My will alone could not have gotten me there. It was the relationship I had with Christ and the right people that supported me, believed in me and were willing to make the commitment and sacrifice to help me get on top of the podium and make history.”
Holland is the liturgical music consultant for the Office of Black Ministry, a position he has held since 1995. A teaching assistant in ethnomusicology, he is director of the spirituals project at the Lamont School of Music, University of Denver, and just released “Building Up the Kingdom,” recordings of original gospel and liturgical music.
Holland, who performed on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning show “Memphis’’ and in Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple,’’ earned a master’s degree in piano performance from the Manhattan School of Music.
“It’s a very humbling award,” Holland said. “I would have never expected to receive this honor and to be in the company of someone like Dominique Dawes who has a global presence. I’m just flattered and honored.’’
The archdiocese established the Pierre Toussaint Scholarship Fund in 1983 to provide scholarships and mentorship to college student leaders of diverse backgrounds in the archdiocese. Born a slave in Haiti, Toussaint was a faithful Catholic who became known for his charitable works in 19th-century New York and his cause for canonization is open.
“I hope we all continue to follow the path and example that Pierre Toussaint set for service and humility,” Holland said. “What we have and what God has gifted us with was not for our own sole purpose and ability. It also was so that we can be of service and help somebody else.”