2 More Men Come Forward, Support Sexual Misconduct Accusations against Former Delbarton Headmaster
By Kevin Manahan
January 24, 2012
|Brian Kvederas sits on his front porch in Bridgewater. He says former Delbarton headmaster Luke Travers tried to seduce him when he was a high school student in a religious education program presided over by Travers.|
In a candlelit room at St. James School in Basking Ridge, Brian Kvederas remembers confessing the overwhelming fears of his adolescence to Rev. Luke Travers some 25 years ago.
As part of a weekend youth-ministry retreat at adjacent St. James Church, high school juniors and seniors were meeting one-on-one with clergy in informal settings to confess their sins or simply chat about what was on their minds. On this Saturday night, Kvederas chose Travers "because he seemed cool to talk to."
As Kvederas spilled his innermost anxieties, the two sat knees to knees, candles flickering, in a secluded corner of an office or small classroom, Kvederas recalls.
A high school senior, Kvederas would start a six-year stint in the Navy four days after graduation, leaving his family and high school sweetheart. Terrified of a future that could place him thousands of miles away and alone, Kvederas recalls asking tearfully: "Father Luke, am I doing the right thing?"
After the emotional talk, Kvederas said Travers hugged him, then whispered a request: "Kiss me." Stunned, Kvederas nonetheless went to give Travers "a peck on the cheek." He says the monk swung his head around, kissed him on the lips and "tried to stick his tongue in my mouth."
Kvederas said he pushed away Travers, bolted from the room and avoided Travers for the rest of the weekend. He immediately told his girlfriend and best friend, who also were on the retreat, but kept the incident secret from his family for many years, he said. He didnít tell church officials, he said, because he "didnít want to ruin the weekend." He never attended another retreat, he said.
Now 43, Kvederas is one of four men now to publicly accuse Travers, a former headmaster at Delbarton School, of sexually inappropriate behavior. Kvederas, the only alleged victim to allow his name to be used, is one of two men to contact The Star-Ledger in the past week and describe encounters with Travers.
The two recollections ó from men who say they donít know each other and have never spoken ó are eerily similar. They describe private, candlelit rooms, emotional confessions and inappropriate touching and kissing by a young, charismatic member of the clergy who had cultivated their friendship and trust.
Together, they paint a portrait of a monk who, only months after his ordination, allegedly used local parishes and the sacrament of penance as an arena for sexual impropriety.
The second man who came forward this past weekend is a 41-year-old former Morristown resident and Assumption Church altar boy. He provided a detailed, 18-paragraph statement to The Star-Ledger and underthegreenwave.com, a website that chronicles alleged abuse at Delbarton.
In the statement, he said that at a 1987 youth ministry retreat at Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Church in Cedar Knolls, when he was 16, Travers "gave me a long hug during which he stroked my back" after confession. "He kissed my neck and then put his cheek to my cheek," the man said.
A "creepy feeling" made him leave the room immediately, he recalled, as Travers protested that the gestures had been misinterpreted. The man said he told his mother when he got home, "Fr. Luke tried to molest me," but she didnít believe him until she read about the other victims in the Jan. 13 Star-Ledger and called him. He lives in North Carolina.
The accuser said he may be willing to put his name to the allegations, but is giving his mother, who still is active in the church in Morris County, "a few days to wrap her mind around this."
Monday, in a phone interview, he said, "Itís important to stop this man and the madness. Fr. Luke was hunting for victims and he pounced on them when he found them in vulnerable situations."
|The Rev. Luke Travers was replaced last Wednesday after a letter was sent to church officials outlining sexual misconduct claims by two male former students at New Jersey's Delbarton School.|
'LET'S STOP THIS'
Kvederas, a former Morristown firefighter now living in Bridgewater, went public after allegations by two ex-Delbarton students rocked the exclusive private Catholic school and its community earlier this month.
One man told victims advocate Patrick Marker and Delbarton officials that Travers kissed him, said he loved him and wanted to run away with him in the early 1990s ó while Travers consoled the student over his dying father. The second accuser told Marker that, in the 1980s, Travers grabbed his crotch and butt and asked pointed questions about the studentís sex life.
Last week, Rev. Giles P. Hayes, abbot of St. Maryís Abbey, which runs Delbarton, said an investigation into the first manís allegations has been ongoing since June. Spokesman Anthony Cicatiello said the school only recently learned of the second accuser.
When informed of the latest allegations by Kvederas and the former Morristown man, Ciciatello said prosecutorsí offices would be alerted and "any new allegations would be added to the internal investigation by the Abbey Review Board already underway on Father Luke."
Hayes said he notified the Morris County Prosecutorís Office in June about the first manís accusation. A prosecutorís spokesman said it would be "inappropriate to comment on whether there was an investigation or not." Kvederas said he hasnít met with Somerset prosecutors.
Travers was headmaster at Delbarton from 1999 to 2007, and also taught at the school.
When the first accuserís allegations were made public on Jan. 12, Travers was fired from his job as the administrative head of a Richmond, Va., abbey and sent back to Morris Township.
Kvederas, who is receiving a disability pension after breaking his back while fighting a fire, said he decided to speak out after reading the stories of the first alleged victims in The Star-Ledger. He also said he doesnít have a lawyer and isnít seeking money.
"I want to be on record, validating what the others are saying," he said during an interview in his home. "I donít want it to happen to anyone else. I read that article and said, ĎLetís stop this.í"
Kvederas said he was steered to the front page of the Jan. 13 edition by his mother, Mary Jane Kvederas. She said her son told her about the attempted kiss "about 10 years ago" when she wanted to know why he had drifted from his Catholic faith and wasnít attending Mass. Mary Jane Kvederas said she believed her son "without question" when he first told her.
Brian Kvederasí wife, Andrea, said her husband told her about Traversí alleged kiss "before we were married, and weíve been married five years." She said they were talking about "faith and the church," roughly six years ago.
In a statement Friday, Hayes said St. Maryís Abbey "abhors sexual misconduct, especially that of a priest against a minor." But two weeks ago, he characterized allegations by the first accuser as "a minor boundary violation with an adult student."
Kvederas said he came forward partly because of that "insensitive" remark.
"Itís not a Ďminorí thing," Kvederas said. "Itís a major thing. Itís traumatic. Something like that stays with you all of your life. You never forget it."