Fr. Samonie remembered as spiritual, artistic

Detroit — Fr. Jacob “Jay” Samonie was a deeply spiritual and artistically talented priest, in the view of friends and colleagues.

“He was definitely deeply spiritual. Many of us thought he might have been something of a mystic,” said his long-time friend Fr. William Petron.

Fr. Samonie, a senior priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, died July after several years of poor health. He was 80

Fr. Petron had met Fr. Samonie when they were just a year apart as students at Sacred Heart Seminary, but said he really got to know him after Fr. Samonie retired and began to help out at St. Mel Parish, Dearborn Heights, where Fr. Petron was pastor.

“As time went on, we became friends, and played golf together and began to go to lunch together. It was a great honor that he asked me to preach his (funeral) homily,” Fr. Petron recalled.

As a preacher, Fr. Samonie was “insightful, with a wealth of good stories that illustrated his point, and a good sense of humor — in both his homilies and in life,” Fr. Petron continued.

He added that Fr. Samonie also used to tell of his boyhood memories of Fr. Solanus Casey, the famous Capuchin friar, who used to come into his family’s small grocery store near St. Bonaventure Monastery on Detroit’s lower east side.

Fr. Petron also spoke of Fr. Samonie’s artistic talents as both a painter and as a pianist, and how he was author of several books.

Fr. Russ Kohler, pastor of Most Holy Trinity Parish in Detroit, said Fr. Samonie had a challenging assignment when he was named to succeed Msgr. Clement Kern as pastor of the historic Corktown parish.

“Fr. Kern thought a lot of Fr. Samonie as a spiritual bridge (between Eastern and Western Christianity), because of his Lebanese family roots,” Fr. Kohler said.

“I remember this retreat Fr. Kern had organized, and a lot of priests went to it, thinking they would be hearing Clem Kern. Instead, Fr. Kern wanted them to hear Fr. Samonie. I remember it as a very Eastern kind of spirituality,” Fr. Kohler said.

He recalled how Fr. Samonie had gone to Mexico to learn Spanish before taking the helm at Most Holy Trinity, which had a growing Hispanic membership.

That began a love of many aspects of Hispanic culture that was reflected in the presence of a Mariachi band at his funeral, Fr. Kohler added.

Fr. Samonie was born April 27, 1930. He was ordained to the priesthood June 2, 1956.

He served briefly as associate pastor at St. John Parish, Ypsilanti in 1956; at the Detroit parishes of St. Boniface (1956-58), All Saints (1958-61), St. Christopher (1961-63) and Holy Cross (1963-69).

He served as administrator of St. Bernadette Parish, Dearborn; and Our Lady of Mount Carmel Mission, Detroit (1969-72).

Fr. Samonie was pastor of St. Michael Parish, Pontiac (1972-77); Most Holy Trinity Parish, Detroit (1977-88); and St. Michael Parish, Monroe from 1988 until being granted senior priest status in 1995.

He is survived by three sisters, Jacqueline Cebulskie, Elizabeth Nader and Rose Semain; several nieces and nephews; and many great nieces and great nephews.

A funeral Mass was celebrated July 19 at St. Mel Church, Dearborn Heights, by Archbishop Allen Vigneron. Burial was in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield.

Condolences may be sent to Mrs. Jacqueline Cebulskie, 15987 Park Lane, Northville 48168.