Parents claim Temperance priest ruined son's funeral, shaming their son

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, Dane Sager Kelly - Web Producer

TEMPERANCE, Mich. - Parents are claiming a priest ruined their son's funeral.

Jeff and Linda Hullibarger's son committed suicide on Dec. 4 and they went to a priest at a Temperance Catholic church to handle the ceremony.

The Hullibargers were shocked when the priest reportedly used his pulpit Saturday to shame their son, Maison, during his funeral for the way that he died.

Maison Hullibarger was a former high school running back, a straight-A student and a college freshman at the University of Toledo. His suicide was excruciating for his parents.

The funeral they looked to for some comfort made the agony worse when the priest started lecturing about suicide from the pulpit.

"He was calling our son a sinner," Jeff Hullibarger said. "He wondered if there was enough repentance on our son's part so that he would make it into heaven."

"I was in disbelief," Linda Hullibarger said. "I even felt more sick to my stomach because it's like he was crucifying my son."

A family member approached the priest and asked him politely to stop, but he didn't. 

The family was so angry, Jeff Hullibarger asked the priest not to accompany them to the cemetery, where they did their own memorial.

The Archdiocese of Detroit apologized for the priest's actions, but the parents said an apology isn't enough.

Additionally, the funeral had another unwanted guest -- Bedford High School football coach Jeff Wood. The Hullibargers asked him to leave. Wood claimed on Facebook he thought the family blamed him for their son's death.

"We did not blame him," Linda Hullibarger said. "He just was not kind to our kids."

The priest is going to go into counseling, where the archdiocese said he needs to learn to better understand and practice compassion. Wood has been let go from his position at the school. The school district said his Facebook post was one of the reason why he lost his job of the last 11 years.

The full statement from the Archdiocese of Detroit can be read below:

"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."

If you or a loved one is feeling distressed or having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline utilizes the guidance of experts, as well as the voices of lived experience, to continually improve Lifeline services. These individuals bring invaluable knowledge and support to our mission of reducing the national incidence of suicide.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text 741-741.

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