Maison Hullibarger, a former football star at Bedford High School in Temperance, Michigan, and a criminal justice student at the University of Toledo, committed suicide on Dec. 4. He was 18, according to the Detroit Free Press.
Jeffrey Wood, Maison’s football coach in high school, went to the funeral on Dec. 8. Linda Hullibarger, Maison’s mother, did not want him there. According to Jeff Hullibarger, Maison’s father, Wood has been bullying kids for years. In fact, four of his sons played for him.
“We knew Maison would not want him at his funeral. He did not treat Maison kindly. So it was our wish that he would not be there,” Linda told the Free Press.
And after one of the couple’s sons asked Wood to leave, Wood went to social media and said this:
“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 coach was later fired after posting his comments.
A terrible homily
The Free Press’ report depicts a shocking scene that unfolded at Hullibarger’s funeral.
When Maison’s parent’s looked for comfort from their priest at the funeral, the priest delivered a disturbing homily about suicide.
The parents met with Father Don LaCuesta of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church before the funeral to discuss what they expected to hear in the homily. Linda said they wanted LaCuesta to celebrate Maison’s life, not how he died.
But LaCuesta went against the Hullibarger’s wishes. “It was his time to tell everybody what he thought of suicide, [and] we couldn’t believe what he was saying,” Jeff told the newspaper. Jeff explained how LaCuesta condemned Maison, by calling him a sinner. People told Jeff there was almost a smirk on LaCuesta’s face.
“He wondered if he had repented enough to make it to heaven. He said ‘suicide’ upwards of six times,” Jeff said. The homily was so disturbing that a few young men who were Maison’s age left the church crying, Jeff mentioned.
Jeff marched to the pulpit and politely asked LaCuesta to stop, but said LaCuesta didn’t oblige. After the service, Jeff and Linda told LaCuesta he wasn’t allowed at Maison’s gravesite burial. After the funeral, LaCuesta, according to the couple, prevented them from eulogizing their son.
“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. He had the organist start playing and they were going to roll the casket out — some nerve,” Jeff said.
The Archdiocese of Detroit issued the following statement about the matter:
“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.”
At the gravesite burial, Jeff and Lina “gave our own blessing of Maison, with everybody who loved him,” Jeff said.
Jeff and Linda thanked those who donated money to a GoFundMe site that would help with funeral expenses. Without the donations, “this would’ve been financially devastating for us,” Jeff said.
The couple later said they will never return to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church. Linda said, “No, no, no!”
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