Priest Torments Mourners By Condemning Teen's Death By Suicide At His Funeral

by Thea Glassman
Image via DmitriMaruta/Getty

During 18-year-old Maison Hullibarger’s funeral, a priest criticized him for dying by suicide

When Jeff and Linda Hullibarger met with Father LaCuesta ahead of their son’s funeral, they explained in detail what they wanted to be included in the homily. The priest seemed to listen and take notes during their sit-down. Then, when the time came for the funeral, Father LaCuesta condemned the Hullibarger’s 18-year-old son Maison for taking his own life.

His speech was horrific and deeply, deeply hurtful.

The Hullibargers tell The Detroit Free Press that their pastor stood in front of a packed church and delivered a speech criticizing Maison’s decision to end his life.

“He was up there condemning our son, pretty much calling him a sinner,” Mr. Hullibarger recalls. “He wondered if he had repented enough to make it to heaven. He said ‘suicide’ upwards of six times.”

A couple of boys began to cry in the pews. Mr. Hullibarger went up to the pulpit and whispered: “Father, please stop.” But the priest kept right on going.

“We wanted him to celebrate how Maison lived, not how he died,” Mrs. Hullibarger said. “…It was [LaCuesta’s] time to tell everybody what he thought of suicide, (and) we couldn’t believe what he was saying.”

This incredibly awful, traumatic situation proceeded to get even worse. The priest actually tried to block the Hullibargers from delivering their own words at the funeral.

“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.,” Mr. Hullibarger says. “He had the organist start playing and they were going to roll the casket out — some nerve.”

The Detroit Free Press reached out to the Archdiocese of Detroit for comment and received a response saying that they understood an “unbearable situation was made even more difficult” by LaCuesta’s actions.

“After some reflection, the presider agrees that the family was not served as they should have been served,” their statement read. “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.”

Understandably, that isn’t enough for the Hullibargers. They want the priest to be removed so that he doesn’t ever inflict this pain on another family. “We’re afraid that, like the Catholic Church does, they’ll send him off and he’ll do it to somebody else,” Mr. Hullibarger said.

The couple started a GoFundMe page to raise money to cover their son’s funeral services and, as of Saturday, they’ve received almost $19,000. Comments poured in from strangers who sent their deepest apologies to the family for having to deal with such a traumatic experience during an already heartbreaking time.

At the end of the funeral, the Hullibargers told the priest that he was not welcome at their son’s burial. “We gave our own blessing of Maison, with everybody who loved him.”