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MRS gets $1 million-plus grant from Mormons for refugee resettlement


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WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops' Migration and Refugee Services is receiving a $1.25 million grant from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to aid in its refugee resettlement efforts once the newcomers arrive in the United States.

The Mormons, as the denomination's adherents are popularly known, have refugee processing capabilities overseas, said MRS executive director Bill Canny, but do not offer domestic resettlement services.

Canny told Catholic News Service that this is the first time in memory that the Mormons have made such a gift to an agency within the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, although Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops' overseas aid and development organization, has received grants from the Mormons dating to the Ethiopian famine more than 30 years ago.

Grants of this nature, of this size, Canny added, don't often happen, "not often enough."

Canny said the Mormons had conducted a successful fundraising drive to aid Syrian refugees. Afterward, "they then approached nine resettlement agencies, offering each of them a gift to help with resettling refugees currently. So they got in touch with us as one of the resettlement agencies. We began to discuss how to distribute the money and the in-kind goods, and we wrote a small project for them, and they agreed to it and gave us the go-ahead."

Of the $1.25 million, $425,000 is in cash while the remaining $800,000 is an in-kind contribution from the Mormons, according to Canny.

The cash portion of the grant will help MRS "further ... develop volunteer networks in dioceses and parishes, so that's important," Canny told CNS. "It's going to allow us to have some money for special medical cases of refugees, and perhaps to help with some housing. And it will help improve the system" to allow more family reunification in situations where members of one family are split between the United States and a refugee camp.

As for the in-kind contribution, "the LDS has a system of warehouses around the country. They're stores, essentially. And we will be to match up resettlement offices, diocesan resettlement offices, with those stores, and they'll be able to draw down on that in in-kind goods, such as beds, goods for children -- diapers, etc. -- and foodstuffs also," Canny said.

He added that the grant to MRS should be drawn down within a year. Another $3.75 million in cash and in-kind contributions from the Mormons were being split among the other eight U.S.-based refugee resettlement agencies

In announcing the grant Aug. 30, Bishop W. Christopher Waddell, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of the LDS Church, said in a statement: "We are grateful for the ongoing relationships we have with people of faith for the opportunities it provides to assist in one of the fundamental principles of the Gospel -- caring for those that may feel like strangers among us."

He added, "This includes those who have been driven from their homes and find themselves in new and unfamiliar circumstances. This donation today is part of our ongoing relationship with the USCCB and our collective resolve to follow Jesus Christ and assist in bettering the lives of refugees."

"Together, as people of faith, we know that refugees desperately need our help -- and this generosity allows us to serve many more," said an Aug. 30 statement by Auxiliary Bishop Eusebio Elizondo of Seattle, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration.

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