The parents of a Michigan teenager who committed suicide have been left devastated after a Catholic priest condemned their son’s final actions during his funeral. University of Toledo freshman Maison Hullibarger took his own life December 4, and the family had organized his funeral to take place on December 8 at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church with their local priest presiding over the service.
Shockingly, however, Father Don LaCuesta took the opportunity to slate Maison as a sinner for committing suicide and even questioned whether the youngster had “repented in the eyes of God.” On numerous occasions, the priest openly doubted that the avid football player had managed to reach heaven following his death. The family protested his remarks, but still, the minister continued on his ghastly rant.
Hullibarger’s parents, Jeff and Linda, had met with the priest prior to the service to specify what they would like him to say.”We wanted him to celebrate how Maison lived, not how he died,” Maison’s mother said.
So when the priest took it upon himself to preach a hard-hitting sermon about the sinfulness of suicide, Jeff stormed up to the pulpit and demanded he cease. “Father, please stop,” he whispered, hoping that the clergyman would have enough decency about him to quit slandering the deceased. But still, LaCuesta continued.
“He was up there condemning our son, pretty much calling him a sinner. He wondered if he had repented enough to make it to heaven. He said ‘suicide’ upwards of six times,” Jeff explained to the Detroit Free Press. “There were actually a couple of younger boys who were Maison’s age who left the church sobbing.”
Then, when it came time for the dad to eulogize his own son, LaCuesta attempted to end the mass.
“I had words prepared, but when [the priest] was done, he was going to finish mass without giving anybody else the opportunity to say anything. He had the organist start playing and they were going to roll the casket out — some nerve,” Jeff told DFP. Hullibarger said that many in attendance noted that the priest had “a smirk on his face” during his insensitive remarks.
Maison’s high school football coach, Jeffrey Wood, also attended the funeral on Dec. 8 despite allegedly bullying Maison and his brother relentlessly during their time at Bedford High School. Hullibarger’s parents specifically requested that Wood not attend the memorial as a result, but he ignored the grieving couple’s request and showed up.
“We knew Maison would not want him at his funeral. He did not treat Maison kindly. So it was our wish that he would not be there,” Linda told the outlet.
One of the couple’s sons promptly asked the coach to leave. Later, he posted this shocking message to Facebook, which ultimately resulted in him being fired from his job:
“I was just asked to leave a funeral by a family member of a deceased football player. If you need someone to blame, I’m your man, I’m your fall guy. This is how society is when things go not as planned. We blame others for our own shortcomings. This tragedy is not about me or you. It’s about looking in the mirror as a human being and being real and honest with yourself.”
As for the rogue priest, the Archdiocese of Detroit issued a statement on the matter, saying that they were “sorry.”
“We share the family’s grief at such a profound loss. Our hope is always to bring comfort into situations of great pain, through funeral services centered on the love and healing power of Christ,” the Archdiocese stated, according to Yahoo News.
“Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case. We understand that an unbearable situation was made even more difficult, and we are sorry.
“After some reflection, the presider agrees that the family was not served as they should have been served. For the foreseeable future, he will not be preaching at funerals and he will have his other homilies reviewed by a priest mentor. In addition, he has agreed to pursue the assistance he needs in order to become a more effective minister in these difficult situations.
“We have been in contact with the family since learning of this situation, and we will continue to offer our support going forward.”
“We wanted him to celebrate how Maison lived, not how he died,” Linda said of the horrifying homily. And as for whether the parents will ever return to the Catholic Church? “No, no, no,” they said. “Absolutely not!”
A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to help the family cope with funeral expenses.
“A few days ago we all lost someone very special to us,” the description reads.
“A son, brother, friend, cousin. This is a hard time for us all. No one ever expects this to happen, no one is ever ready when this happens. All donations will go directly towards funeral cost, nothing else. This is hard for us to do as we do not enjoy asking for favors but the cost for a proper burial is vast. We love and appreciate everyones support regardless.”
So far, over $20,000 dollars has been raised, and messages of support have been pouring in on the page.
“Jesus knows his heart. He loved him so much as if he was the only one on earth. I’m super sorry for your loss. You will see him again,” one person wrote.
“I am so terribly sorry for the loss of your incredible son. I am also so incredibly sorry about what happened at his funeral. At a time when you were supposed to be comforted, you had the complete opposite experience. I wholeheartedly support firing this priest. He was mean spirited, and frankly evil.
He knew he was hurting you and your family, and he continued despite your request that he stop. I hope that you take whatever extra money is available to help you and your children navigate this heartbreaking tragedy. And I hope that in time, you are able to find peace and joy again in your lives.”
Pray for this family as they grieve the loss of their dear son.