As Metro Detroit sports fans mourn passing of longtime broadcaster, Fr. Steve Mateja recalls host’s ‘openness and willingness to dialogue’

DETROIT — Late local sports radio personality Jamie Samuelsen’s humility and inquisitive nature made an impact on at least one Detroit-area Catholic priest.

Samuelsen, 48, co-host of the popular “Jamie and Stoney” morning radio show with Mike Stone on 97.1 FM-WXYT (The Ticket), died Aug. 1, just days after shocking listeners by announcing his 19-month battle with colon cancer on the air.

Since Samuelsen’s death, prayers, memories and tributes have poured in from sports fans across Metro Detroit, many who praised the longtime broadcaster for his modesty, humility and down-to-earth demeanor in a business filled with egos.

During an emotional day on the station Monday, Fr. Steve Mateja, associate pastor of St. Francis of Assisi-St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Ray Township and St. Mary Mystical Rose Parish in Armada, called in to the “Karsch and Anderson” program to relay a story of an encounter with Samuelsen years ago.

“Last Monday, when I heard of his cancer, the first thing I did was to pray for him,” Fr. Mateja told the show’s hosts, Doug Karsch and Scott Anderson. “Being a Catholic priest, I’ve experienced so many difficult funerals and deaths and tragedies. I see the heartache in it.”

Listen to Fr. Mateja on air (starts around 10:48)

Fr. Mateja, who described himself as an avid sports radio fan, thanked the hosts for allowing listeners to mourn on air.

“I have two radio stations programmed in my car: Catholic radio 990-AM, and 97.1 the Ticket,” Fr. Mateja said. “I’m a sports talk radio junkie. I’ve listened to WDFN since my Ford days back in 1998-99. My favorite show was Greg Brady and Jamie Samuelsen, and now it’s Karsch and Anderson.”

Years ago, when Fr. Mateja was studying for the priesthood at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, he remembered listening to Samuelsen talk about his upcoming wedding to local TV personality Christy McDonald. Although Samuelsen wasn’t Catholic, the two were planning to get married in a Catholic church.

Fr. Mateja called in to talk to Samuelsen on the air, and afterward decided to email him.

“I just said, ‘Hey, brother, I’m a Catholic seminarian studying for the priesthood. I know you’re not Catholic, but if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask,’” Fr. Mateja said. “And so we emailed back and forth four or five times, and though I’m not going to reveal those emails, we just had a conversation about faith.”

According to news reports, Samuelsen was later baptized around the time when his daughter, Caroline, was baptized.

“For me, it was an understanding of his openness and willingness to dialogue,” Fr. Mateja said. “That was the beauty of him as a man.”

As a public figure and as someone who speaks publicly for a living as a priest, Fr. Mateja said he understands the degree to which Samuelsen “was family” for his listeners.

As a public figure and as someone who speaks publicly for a living as a priest, Fr. Mateja said he understands the degree to which Samuelsen “was family” for his listeners.

Now, as family does, Fr. Mateja said it’s up to everyone — especially Catholics — to pray for Samuelsen and his family as they grieve a terrible loss.

“This is what we need. This is what I need. We have to be able to have these avenues to talk about it,” Fr. Mateja told Karsch and Anderson. “As people of faith, we fall on our knees and thank God for what He’s done for us, and to thank God for the gift of Jamie.”

“The first thing I did as a believer in the Lord Jesus was to fall down and ask God to be merciful to him, and to welcome him home,” Fr. Mateja said. “Now, our transition as Christians is to pray for his soul and to pray for his family. So that’s what we’re doing.”