LAWTELL, La. (KLFY) — Three Acadiana men are speaking publicly for the first time about being repeatedly sexually abused, allegedly, by a local priest when they were only 10 and 11 years old.

And now in their 50’s, the men are coming forward with the allegations, hoping to find closure through a new law that went into effect earlier this summer, allowing adults who were victims as minors up to three years to file suit against accused offenders.

52-year-old Mark Batiste begins his story identifying the priest who allegedly sexually abused him, his brother, and nearly a dozen other altar boys. “First off his name was Fr. James Queren.”

Batiste claims the abuse went on for about three years at the Holy Family Catholic Church in Lawtell.

Recalling the traumatic events Batiste says, “I can remember the first time it happened. I left as soon as he was finished.” Batiste says he went home, cried, and kept it a secret. “I felt as a child my daddy always told us that the priests were next to God.”

But the damage was done by years of abuse that Batiste says that left him no way out, except, “By the time I was a young man, I was already into drugs to get rid of these memories you know.”

Memories he says of not only the abuse but of him and other boys being used to recruit others.

He explains, “And then he would try to make the guys do each other, in the group.”  Batiste says as an adult, he saw news stories of others telling their stories, and a news clip of the bishop of the Diocese of Lafayette encouraging victims to come forward, “I did that,” he says, “I decided I’m going to go.” 

So he did in 2018, and says he was told by diocese representatives, “We’re going to see what we can do for y’all. And I thank God today that my life has changed.”

But the long-kept secret has been far-reaching and it’s something his mother, Elma Batiste still struggles with as she remembers how she felt when her children first told her.

“I was hurt, very much so. But that priest was dead so I couldn’t do anything about it.” The betrayal is something she says she just can’t let go of. “Like everything was okay, but it wasn’t. He was doing things with my children, and that’s why he would come here regularly to try to cover it up.”  

The story does not end there. Hear more from Mark, his brother, and their mother, plus a third alleged victim Wednesday night at 10 p.m.

News 10 also contacted the Diocese of Lafayette and they responded.