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Beauty queen, role model

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Staff reporter

Reigning Miss Delaware Maria Cahill displays her faith on the public stage, sets example for girls who admire her

GLASGOW — Maria Cahill makes her faith known in her sometimes tongue-in-cheek blog as Miss Delaware 2011. Each day’s postings end with a Bible quote.

“A lot of my blog is sarcastic humor,” Cahill said, “but at the end of the day, the last thing I want them to remember me by is what is most important to me.”

The self-described devout Catholic called her religion a vital part of her life and will remain so during her year as Miss Delaware. The 20-year-old Cahill, a parishioner at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Wilmington, also will not shy away from her pro-life stance; she is scheduled to appear at the Delaware Right to Life banquet at the Sheraton Dover Hotel on Oct. 11.

“The world we live in right now is getting more and more secular and no one wants to talk about religion, and no one wants to bring up those heavy topics because they know it gets into this politically correct arena and no one wants to touch it,” she said. “If I feel I’m being called to do something, why not?

“I don’t feel like people should look at it any differently, whether I’m just Maria Cahill or Miss Delaware, because at the end of the day my opinion is the same. I’m going to express it no matter what, regardless of whether I have a crown on my head or not.”

Cahill could exchange crowns in January when she participates in the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas. She will extend her one semester absence from Wilmington University, where she is a marketing major with a communications minor, for another year to prepare for that pageant, but she is determined to finish her degree work.

Eventually she wants to become a talk show host, a career goal influenced once again by her faith. While a high school student at Aquinas Academy in Bear, her family would watch talk shows on EWTN, the Eternal Word Television Network.

“I remember being so bored of it,” Cahill said. “I always said I want my own talk show on EWTN that’s so entertaining it would actually make you want to watch it.”

She’s since expanded her scope beyond EWTN but “I still want my own talk show.”

Using her platform

Cahill is the second of seven children of John and Darlene Cahill. The family moved to Delaware from Pittsburgh when Maria Cahill was in seventh grade. She started Irish dance lessons as a young girl in Pittsburgh, rising through the ranks to compete on two occasions in the World Irish Dancing Championships. She performed an Irish dance in the talent competition of the Miss Delaware pageant.

She attended St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., for two years before she transferred to Wilmington University. Her faith was deepened at St. Vincent where she became exposed to other religious viewpoints, including the Baptist faith of her roommate-turned-best friend, Becca Raraigh.

Raraigh, a senior art education major at St. Vincent, said the reliance on faith each had helped them become close friends. “We discussed the differences and similarities in our faith and with other religions in general,” she said. “She (Cahill) is very open about her religious views and willing to talk about them with anybody.”

Cahill has an easy-going way that helps her get along with anyone and become a confidant to some, Raraigh said. “She’s one of those people who other people go to for advice.”

As Miss Delaware, Cahill offers advice to teenagers as she promotes the 16-26 Project, which warns about the dangers of texting while driving. She adopted that program after her sister’s college roommate died in an accident while texting and driving; several weeks later her sister was injured while a passenger in a serious accident on the New Jersey Turnpike.

“I felt I could do something,” Maria Cahill said. “I had the title of Miss Rehoboth Beach and I said if that’s not a good platform to talk about, texting and safe driving, then what is?”

She uses her own experiences when she talks defensive-driving classes at high schools. “I would do everything while driving — I would text, I would put on make-up, I would do all sorts of crazy things,” she said. “For me the wake-up call was my sister’s roommate dying; I don’t want that to be the wake-up call for any of them.”

During her tenure as Miss Delaware, Cahill realizes she will also be a role model for many young girls who will look up to her.

“It’s one of those unspoken rules,” she said of her role model status. “One of the bummers is that shouldn’t be just because I’m Miss Delaware; that should be for everyone.”

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