Maison Hullibarger’s parents were shocked when Reverand Don LaCuesta called their son a sinner and condemned suicide at his funeral
Maison’s father Jeff Hullibarger asked LaCuesta to stop twice during his sermon but his requests went ignored
The Archdiocese of Detroit said in a statement that LaCuesta is being reviewed by a priest mentor
Maison’s high school football coach Jeffrey Robert Wood was asked to leave the funeral and later fired for a post he made on social media
When Linda and Jeff Hullibarger met with Reverand Don LaCuesta at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church in Temperance, Michigan to discuss what would be said at the funeral for their 18-year-old son Maison Hullibarger — who died from suicide — they did not expect him to condemn their son for his “sin”.
Maison died from suicide on December 4. He was a straight A student at the University of Toledo and enjoyed camping and football. Jeff and Linda were devastated by the loss, so what LaCuesta did only hurt grieving parents that much more. Maison’s parents informed LaCuesta of what they wanted him to say, which did not include condemning their son as a sinner for his manner of death.
Despite the parent’s wishes, LaCuesta viewed the funeral as a chance to condemn the act of suicide in front of hundreds of Maison’s loved ones. LaCuesta was so out of line that Jeff politely requested him to stop two different times. Linda told WXYZ both requests were ignored, and LaCuesta continued to condemn the act of suicide and disrespect the Maison.
He called our son a sinner in front of hundreds of people and judged him when he didn’t even know him. Jeff went up to the pulpit and asked him to stop. Twice. He didn’t stop. He didn’t miss a beat.
The Archdiocese of Detroit released a statement saying LaCuesta would not be performing funerals as he is reviewed by a priest mentor.
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.
LaCuesta was not the only problem the Hullibarger’s had while trying to grieve and bury their son. Maison’s high school football coach Jeffrey Robert Wood from Bedford High School also caused problems for the grieving family. Wood was not wanted at the funeral due to his treatment of Maison and his brothers. Jeff and Linda both claim Wood verbally mistreated Maison and his brothers.
The family was surprised to see that Wood showed up at the funeral. One of Maison’s older brothers went and told Wood he was not wanted there and needed to leave. Maison’s brother did not cause a scene, nor was his request out of line, but Wood’s response was and caused him to lose his job. After leaving the funeral, Wood made a very derogatory post on his Facebook that has since been deleted.
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.
The family was shocked to see Wood’s post. Not only had they never placed the blame on Wood, they never even let them know half of what they actually felt towards him. The Bedford community took the post as being extremely insensitive. The school announced in a statement that Wood is “no longer affiliated in any way with the Bedford football program.”
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. The district will take appropriate, firm, corrective action if the allegations are substantiated. To protect the rights of all involved parties, I cannot offer further comment regarding ongoing personnel matters.