Pictured Below: Sister Dorothy Kazel with the first children of COAR, Zaragoza, 1980
La Comunidad Oscar Arnulfo Romero, known best as COAR, was founded in 1980 in memory of the beloved Salvadoran hero and martyr, Archbishop Oscar Romero. Padre Ken Meyers, the humble parish priest from small town Ohio, who first envisioned COAR in the late 1970's, dreamed of providing the otherwise abandoned children of El Salvador's gruelling 12 year civil war with a place that they could call home, somewhere safe where they could grow up in the midst of love and care, somewhere where they could learn and play and dream.
COAR took in its first orphans over a quarter of a century ago, back in August of 1980, at the onset of the long and deadly civil war that would eventually claim some 75,000 lives. As the war raged on for over a decade, countless families were torn apart and so many, many children were left alone and abandoned, the young, victims of the nation's deep turmoil. It was Maryknoll lay missionary Jean Donovan and Ursuline nun Dorothy Kazel who first responded to the pleas of the desperate pleas of the growing number of newly orphaned children. Visiting refugee camps and shelters, they took in COAR's first orphans. In the first month, working out of their tiny parish Nuestra Senora de Pilar in the rural town of Zaragoza, they housed, fed, and cared for 27 children. Within just the first three years, the number of children at COAR would rise to over some 300. Since its conception nearly some 27 years ago, COAR has offered love, care, and a more hopeful future to thousands of young Salvadoran children with no where else to turn.
Tragically, Jean and Dorothy, along with Maryknoll sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford were brutally murdered on December 2, 1980 while driving along a stretch of road not all that far from COAR. Though the war claimed their lives along with so many others, their work and inspiration will never be forgotten. The scholarship program Nuestro Ahora is dedicated to the memory of these four martyred women (pictured at right). Their lives were most powerful examples of service, dedication, and deep conviction. COAR's history is a proud one of twenty-seven years of heroes. The participants of Nuestro Ahora strive to follow in this legacy. . .