Jeff Hullibarger and his wife, Linda Hullibarger of Temperance, Michigan, met with Father Don LaCuesta about what the priest would say at the funeral of their son Maison (above) at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church. Maison, 18, had killed himself.
Father LaCuesta, however, without giving any notice to the family and after leaving the parents with the impression that the homily would be appropriate, told mourners that the youth may have ruined his chances of getting to heaven by ending his own life in a lengthy homily about the sin of suicide.
The teen’s dad, Jeff, said, “We couldn’t believe what he was saying. 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.”
At one point in the service, the deceased’s father walked to the pulpit and asked the priest to “please stop.” LaCuesta wouldn’t.
But wait! There’s more!
Maison’s high school football coach, Jeffrey Wood, who’d bullied Maison and his three brothers, showed up despite being asked not to attend by the family. He was asked to leave. Wood then posted a nasty message about his removal from the service on social media, which got him fired by the school, which in turn led to the termination of his coaching duties.
As if that wasn’t enough, the snacks at the reception afterwards were stale.
Following complaints from the family, the Archdiocese of Detroit said in a statement:
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.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.
I’m sure that’s very comforting to a family whose Church betrayed them when they needed empathy, compassion and kindness.
The Hullibargers have always been steadfast Catholics, but they won’t be returning to the church where their son’s funeral took place. It’s sad; they just haven’t mastered the forgiveness thing, I guess.
Father LaCuesta’s goal, his online profile says, is “to be part of the revival of Catholic culture.”