Serving the Kids at COAR: A Letter of Introduction From the Congregation: Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza
Three years ago, a missionary community from Spain contacted Archbishop Escobar to ask if they could be of service to children in El Salvador. The Archbishop welcomed them and suggested that they contact COAR Children’s Village. Since then, COAR has been home to four wonderful Catholic nuns who tutor our children, organize religious formation, lead retreats, and serve as exemplary role models to the COAR community. Below, please find their letter of introduction that they wanted to share with all of COAR’s donors and friends.
Our congregation is called “Missionaries of Our Lady of the Pillar” and was founded by Mother Esperanza Vitales in Huesca, Spain, in 1939. Our Mother House is currently located in Zaragoza, Spain.
At the end of the Spanish Civil War, Mother Esperanza felt called by God to found the Congregation in order to help the countless many who suffered the horrors of war and to bring Christ to a world shadowed by sin.
Following Jesus’ command to “Go out to the world….”we participate in the Catholic Church’s missionary action making ourselves available at all times to the Will of God through our commitment and presence.
We are a community of four Religious Sisters joined by a young Salvadoran aspirant to our charism. We are Sister Carmen Malo and Sister Carmen Pargada of Spain; Sister Margarita Sepulveda of Chile and Sister Juanita Soriano of Honduras. Our Salvadoran aspirant is Abigail Guadron.
From the first moment of our arrival at COAR, we have experienced the joy of living among this group of children and teenagers residing at the Children’s Village . We love sharing with them all that we have: our faith, our friendship, our company, our willingness to just sit and listen to them, our love for them – surrounded by such precious nature.
Among everything that we do, we try to accompany them in an education of Faith in which we make baby steps helping them to discover the God in their own lives, in the lives of others, and in nature itself. We work to strengthen who they are and what they do: faith and action, following Jesus. With them, we live the Gospel Values that unite God with us and others.
We accomplish this these objectives through catechesis, retreats, dialog, casual conversation, movies, sacraments, the Eucharist, prayer, Christmas posadas, and our constant presence with them. Additionally, we try to help them by offering academic tutoring – based upon their needs at any given moment.
We thank God because he has wanted to use us through our service to this group who from childhood have been disadvantaged: victims of extreme poverty, violence, abandonment or the loss of parents within a society of exclusion. However, this is a reciprocal service for we ourselves are evangelized by them.
COAR’s Mission, today, requires one to care for and nurture the entire child through the Christian values of charity, justice, fraternity and faith – promoting the defense of and guaranteeing their rights and responsibilities, working collaboratively with other agencies.
COAR was born in the same year as the assassination of Mons Romero in order to help the countless war refugees. In today’s Salvadoran society, we are working to fulfill similar objectives: to care for and nurture those at-risk. We thank God for calling upon Father Ken to create this great work and to carry out its mission in a place of such insecurity amidst such poverty and suffering.
Our service extends, as well, to the life of the whole parish through catequesis, prayer groups, religious formation, community and pastoral service and care for the poor. We work with the community and for its benefit – living in community with them realizing the Gift of the Word of the Gospels.
We stand with the people in all aspects of faith life, prayer and commitment, in a parish that is alive and active. We belong to CONFRES which is the conference of religious in El Salvador – attending some of the events on formation, prayer, retreats and spiritual exercises.
We bring our experience as educators in the faith to COAR’s K-12 school where we teach several religion classes and where we are involved with all aspects of spiritual life at the school.
We have also been fortunate to be able to obtain some grants from Spain for the school to support both secondary and university scholarships, as well as, supporting some organized groups whose objectives are to help kids to escape family violence and encourage entrepreneurship.
We respect and admire the efforts that COARPM makes to raise the funds necessary to give this community, this COAR family, the ability to receive a comprehensive education and to live with dignity so that they can lead a better life. We also find it to be extraordinary that there are individuals and families in the USA who without ever meeting these kids, sponsor them, support them, and help them in such an altruistic manner.
The path of the COAR family and the path of our Congregation, is very much like Jesus’ path – it is to join with the people and to serve them; it is to fight against marginalization, sadness and evil while working for human dignity and supporting one’s efforts to overcome obstacles. Those of us on the vanguard of any effort can do very little if it were not for the many others who with their prayers, efforts, creativity, memory, values and economic support help us to meet the proposed objectives.
Charity Service tests the authenticity of one’s faith and evangelism. And, from here at COAR, we consider all of you our extended family, with great faith, who evangelizes from afar, through the testimony of your charity.
On Saturday, March 25th, 2017, a new painted mural was inaugurated and blessed. It had been painted upon one of the walls that enclose the parish church. This effort was lead by a church committee “Committee to Rescue the Historic Memory of Zaragoza” and was completed to honor the 4 North American Churchwomen, living in this very parish, who were killed at the onset of the civil war: Dorothy Kazel, Ita Ford, Maura Clarke and Jean Donovan. The mural also stands in honor of Blessed Monsenor Romero in the 37th year of his martyrdom. Two religious sisters from the Maryknoll community attended the event. It was an unforgettable ceremony that will be remembered forever for its message.
COAR transcends current society. It is supported by the parish community through its love for Mons Romero which is often on display in religious performances, the Eucharist, prayers, visits by school kids to Romero’s crypt, Way of the Cross enactments using texts of Romero’s homilies, midnight services, musical performances, and skits about Romero’s life – including the name of the very community itself which reaches the ears of many economic strata. The religious performances always begin at the monument to Romero at the entrance of town and continue on to either the COAR school or the Parish Church of Zaragoza. Romero is loved by the whole school community as protector and friend of the poor, defender of Justice and Human Rights, and someone who was always in touch with the Creator. These are all values that we try to impart to the students.
For our part, we have to add that our Community has a patroness – the Virgin of the Pillar of Zaragoza, Spain – who was the 1st Marianist apparition in the history of humanity. And, according to the tradition, she is seated upon the world y stretches out among the pleasures, hopes and sadness of the our lives, like a tree that has born its fruit. And here, we have come to another Zaragoza, El Salvador, whose parish also has the patroness and namesake “The Virgin of the Pillar”.