A family in mourning attended the funeral of their son and brother at Detriot Catholic Church. During the service for their 18-year-old son Maison, Jeff and Linda Hullibarger sat horrified listening to the sermon given by the priest. Instead of delivering an uplifting homily to remember the positive aspects of Maison’s life, the priest called the teen a sinner. Now the parents are demanding the priest be fired for his statements.
According to a report in the Detroit Free Press, Maison Hullibarger died on December 4 as a result of suicide. His parents Jeff and Linda Hullibarger made arrangements for his funeral at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance.
Before Maison’s funeral, Linda and Jeff sat down with the priest to discuss what they wanted him to say in the homily. Jeff said that they asked Father Don LaCuesta to keep the sermon uplifting and a celebration of Maison’s life.
During the discussion with Father LaCuesta, Jeff said they never told him how Maison died. Instead, he told Father LaCuesta that Maison had a significant effect on people. The parents shared that Maison was passionate and opinionated.
Jeff told the Detriot Free Press, “And we said we had a message for everyone — to be kind to each other, to reach out to those you care about, and to be sincere in your actions and to show love unconditionally.”
After meeting with the priest, the family believed everyone was on the same page. However, during the service, Jeff said the priest did not use the notes from their conversation. Instead of sharing the beautiful memories of Maison’s life, the priest decided to talk about the sin of suicide.
During the homily, the Hullibargers say the priest lectured the guests on suicide. They say Father LaCuesta told the guests that suicide is a sin that condemns those that take their own lives. Additionally, they say Father LaCuesta said he wasn’t sure that Maison would go to heaven for his actions.
While the Father LaCuesta gave the sermon, Jeff said his other children started crying. Jeff walked up to the priest and asked him to stop. However, Father LaCuesta continued his speech condemning Maison for taking his own life.
When Father LaCuesta finished his homily, he prevented the family from delivering Maison’s eulogy. Instead, he asked the organist to play the music and have the casket taken from the church. Jeff said that as the family left the service, he told Father LaCuesta he was not welcome at the burial.
According to the Hullibargers, the priest’s sermon left numerous guests in tears and horrified by what they heard. The Hullibargers say they feel the priest judged their son without knowing anything about him.
When the Archdiocese of Detriot received a complaint about the funeral, the diocese issued a statement. The statement said:
“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.”
Despite the requests by the Hullibargers to fire Father LaCuesta, the diocese did not comment on his future employment.
While the family is right to feel outraged and angry, the Catholic Church has never had the best track record in regards to suicide. The church has argued for hundreds of years that suicide is a mortal sin. The sin was so great that the act itself could leave the person out of heaven. For years, the church refused to provide mass services for anyone that died by suicide.In recent years, the Catholic Church has slightly softened their views on suicide. Today they say that suicide can be forgiven when done under severe stress. Under these circumstances, the church will provide mass. However, the church still refuses to acknowledge that suicide isn’t a sin.
The family says they will never go back to the church. For many Catholics, funerals can be a time for a great awakening. The Catholic Church consistently uses funerals as a time to invoke their opinions on the death and life of the individual despite the wishes of the family.
No one deserves to hear hurtful and disparaging comments about a loved one at a funeral. The Hullibargers only wanted to remember their son for the mark he left on the world.
Instead, the family is left with horrific memories of a priest tarnishing Maison’s legacy. No family deserves that kind of treatment.
May Maison rest in peace, and may his family find comfort during this tragic time.
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