Kevin Matthews, longtime Chicago radio host, known for humor and “cast” of fictional characters on-air, now spreading the word about Jesus’ mother Mary and the “power” of the rosary.

Kevin Matthews, 61, spent his early youth in Pontiac, Mich., in an area “all connected to the auto industry.”

His family moved at a time he was “getting into a lot of trouble, doing really poorly” in grade school — says that, had they stayed, “I would have ended up in jail.

“A very volatile time . . . outside the house,” with the Civil Rights movement and Vietnam War, “then, inside the house, that was volatile, too, because of my dad’s drinking.”

Around the time he was 4, “you’re taken to this building called a church . . . It was very ominous, it was very big . . . and I can remember you’re being taught that there is this guy that will protect you named Jesus . . . I would go home and get into bed, you’d hear the yelling and what not.”

Matthews would ask Jesus to “take me to heaven.”

“To this day, I look at him as a big brother.”

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He started in radio in Michigan, but Matthews made it big in Chicago, working here from the mid-1980s to the mid-2000s, building a loyal fan base of “KevHeads.”

Was at the station known as “The Loop” during its talk/shock-jock heyday, working alongside personalities including Steve Dahl, Garry Meier, Jonathon Brandmeier.

Now doing a weekly podcast through Dahl’s subscription-based network.

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Kevin Matthews in 1989. | Sun-Times files

Matthews was raised Catholic and always maintained “a Christian spirituality.” For years, he also delved into Native American spirituality — “the heavens and the earth.”

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Moved back to Michigan in 2005, where he had a radio show and helped develop programming.

In 2008, “I was on the air doing the morning show . . . a Tuesday morning . . . I couldn’t move my right arm, my right leg, I didn’t know if I was having a stroke.”

Doctors initially thought it was a brain tumor and told him, “If this is cancer, we can’t operate,” so “go home and . . . get your life in order.”

Turned out to be a “rare form” of multiple sclerosis — defined as “an unpredictable, often-disabling disease of the central nervous system that disrupts the flow of information within the brain and between the brain and body.”

Symptoms vary but can include pain, numbness, vision problems and fatigue. It affects mobility, too. There’s treatment but no cure.

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In 2011, he was driving and “heard this voice say, ‘Go get your wife some flowers,’ and . . . nothing is a coincidence, and I looked up, and here’s a flower shop.”

He pulled over and noticed, by a Dumpster, a statue of Jesus’ mother Mary.

It was “broken right in half, right at Mary’s waist. Her hands are missing. She’s covered in garbage and dirt. And I just heard this voice . . . ‘Will you deny me? Will you deny my mother?’ ”

He ended up taking the statue and having it glued together but leaving the other imperfections.

“I want to keep her broken because she reminds me of me — we are all broken . . . but we are loved by Christ more.”

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Kevin Matthews in 2002 when he worked for WCKG. | Sun-Times files

Matthews gave the statue — which he calls “Broken Mary” — to his parish in Grand Rapids, Mich. These days, it’s often brought on the road to provide inspiration or hope.

“Inside hospice, the statue has died with people, the statue has been in intensive care . . . She will go to prisons or people with addictions.”

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In 2013, Matthews learned the rosary — in which beads are fingered in sequence as a series of prayers, including the Hail Mary, are said.

According to a Catholic Church description, “The gentle repetition of the words helps us to enter into the silence of our hearts, where Christ’s spirit dwells.”

“When you hold the rosary, you’re holding the hand of Mary,” Matthews says. “And when you hold the hand of Mary, you’re holding the power of God.”

He’s since developed phone apps that can be used to hear a daily recitation of the rosary.

Matthews also wrote a book — “Broken Mary – A Journey of Hope,” an autobiography chronicling his spiritual journey.

“The rosary is a weapon . . . a battering ram against sin,” he says, as well as being “hopeless.”

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Face to Faith appears Sundays in the Chicago Sun-Times, with an accompanying audio podcast, with additional content, available at chicago.suntimes.com and on iTunes and Google Play.

A young Kevin Matthews. | Sun-Times files

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