Grieving parents say priest called their son 'a sinner' at his funeral

Michigan priest reportedly lectured a grieving family about the consequences of dying by suicide at an 18-year-old’s funeral rather than giving a compassionate speech about his death.

Maison Hullibarger’s parents met with Rev. Don LaCuesta at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance, Mich., after their son took his own life earlier this month, as the Detroit Free Press reports. The couple explained that they wanted the homily at Maison’s funeral to revolve around family. They said they received a very different message at the Dec. 8 service, however.

“He basically called our son a sinner in front of everyone,” Linda Hullibarger, Maison’s mom, told CNN. “We had no idea that he was going to do this. … We’ve been lifelong members of the church.”

Although Maison’s dad, Jeff, tried to intervene, he said the priest continued to use the word suicide. The priest also said Maison might not make it into heaven because he took his life.

It made the worst day of our lives more worse,” Jeff told CNN. 


Maison was a freshman at the University of Toledo, and his parents told local Detroit news station WXYZ that he was strong and confident and enjoyed life.

Though LaCuesta has not publicly addressed his comments about Maison, the Archdiocese of Detroit apologized to the family in a statement given to WXYZ.

“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 statement read. “Unfortunately, that did not happen in this case. We understand that an unbearable situation was made even more difficult, and we are sorry.”

The Archdiocese of Detroit added that LaCuesta will not preach at funerals “for the foreseeable future.”

The priest wasn’t the only one who made a scene at his funeral, though. WXYZ reports that Maison’s high school football coach, Jeff Wood, was asked to leave the service because family members claimed he didn’t treat Maison well. 

After Wood reportedly criticized those claiming he contributed to Maison’s death on Facebook, Bedford Public Schools issued a statement announcing that Wood is no longer the football coach.

“The District holds all of its staff to the highest standards of professionalism, as personal and professional integrity is the core of our service to our community,” Superintendent Carl Shultz said. “The District recently received allegations that those standards may not have been met by the coach. Therefore, we are in the process of thoroughly investigating those allegations.”

Despite the additional drama, though, Maison’s parents told WXYZ that they were more offended by the priest than by Wood.

“I don’t want to see him do that to anybody else, what he did to us,” Jeff said about LaCuesta.

If you or someone you know are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call 911, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

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