Mum’s disgust as priest bins teddy and flowers left on grave

Michelle Hodgkinson at the grave at St Oswald's Church, Longton
Michelle Hodgkinson at the grave at St Oswald's Church, Longton
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A grieving mum has hit out at a priest for binning a teddy bear and wreath she left on her daughter’s grave.

Michelle Hodgkinson left the items in St Oswald’s Cemetery off Chapel Lane, Longton, beside the headstone of daughter Summer Thomson who was stillborn at 26 weeks in 2013.

After a row with Father Jean Paul Ilunga last year over items left at the grave, Michelle agreed to remove some “out of respect”, but wanted to mark the third anniversary of Summer’s death.

She said: “I went in the morning with a really pretty white wreath and a teddy bear, and then went back at 5pm to take them off. When I went back they weren’t there.”

Michelle, 39, from Penwortham, knocked on the presbytery door and was told by Father Jean Paul he had put the items in an industrial bin.

She said: “He told me I should have got permission and that I was making his life hard work. He told me I was upsetting parishioners and he had every right to remove things from graves. It was so distressing.

“What is wrong with putting a wreath on a grave? I feel absolutely disgusted. I don’t know how he can call himself a Catholic, or how the parishioners who have complained can call themselves Catholic.

“For the last few days I’ve not dared go to the grave in case I see him and it upsets me.”

Father Jean Paul Ilunga said graves in a Catholic cemetery should all look the same.

He also said: “At the cemetery entrance is a notice saying that nothing must be put on a grave that would hinder the mower going over the grass. I don’t know if the lady has seen the notice, but I am allowed to remove these things.

“When she came to my door, I said: ‘Do you remember when we spoke last and you promised me you would keep it simple?’

“I asked her why couldn’t she tell me it was a special day. If I’d have known that I would have agreed to have it there. But I did not know.”