‘Father, please stop:’ Family horrified after priest used teen’s funeral to condemn suicide

TEMPERANCE, Mich. — The Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit says it regrets that a priest officiating at a teen’s funeral questioned whether he would get to heaven after killing himself.

Maison Hullibarger’s father tells the Detroit Free Press that he asked the priest to stop talking during the Dec. 8 funeral Mass. But Jeff Hullibarger says the Rev. Don LaCuesta continued giving a critical sermon at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Temperance.

Hullibarger says some mourners left the church crying.

“We wanted him to celebrate how Maison lived, not how he died,” Maison’s mother, Linda Hullibarger, told the paper. “It was his time to tell everybody what he thought of suicide, (and) 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.”

“There were actually a couple of younger boys who were Maison’s age who left the church sobbing,” Jeff Hullibarger said.

Hullibarger said that at one point he walked to the pulpit and whispered to the priest, “Father, please stop,” but their pastor continued with statements denouncing the way their son’s life ended.

The archdiocese released a statement Thursday saying it’s sorry that an “unbearable situation was made even more difficult.” The archdiocese says LaCuesta will not preach at funerals “for the foreseeable future.”

18-year-old Maison died on Dec. 4. He was an athlete and honors student.

Suicide resources

If you or anyone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts or depression, the following resources are available:

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-8255): Speak with someone who will provide free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. To learn how to help someone in crisis, call the same number.

Colorado Crisis Services Hotline (1-844-493-8255): If you are in crisis or need help dealing with one, call 1-844-493-8255 or text “TALK” to 38255 to speak to a trained professional. When calling Colorado Crisis Services, you will be connected to a crisis counselor or trained professional with a master’s or doctoral degree.

The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386): A 24/7 resource for LGBT youth struggling with a crisis or suicidal thoughts. The line is staffed by trained counselors.

Colorado Crisis Services Walk-In Locations: Walk-in crisis service centers are open 24/7, and offer confidential, in-person crisis support, information and referrals to anyone in need.

Colorado Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline: (1-844-264-5437): The best resource for readers to report suspected child abuse and neglect.

The number serves as a direct, immediate and efficient route to all Colorado’s 64 counties and two tribal nations, which are responsible for accepting and responding to child abuse and neglect concerns. All callers are able to speak with a call-taker 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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