Denver’s Angel of Charity, Julia Greeley, was a well-known face on the streets of Denver. Born into slavery, at Hannibal, Missouri, sometime between 1833 and 1848. One time,while she was still growing up, she clung to her mother while the savagely cruel slave-master thrashed her mother with a long whip, and then he injured her right eye with his whip and damaged it.
Julia suffered racism, earned a living by being in the service of Americans – in Missouri, Colorado, Wyoming and New Mexico, though mostly in the Denver area, was sentenced to menial jobs, whenever she had spare time, she spent it assisting poor families in her community. Despite her own poverty, she went about begging for food, fuel and clothing for the needy.” To avoid embarrassing the people she helped, Julia often did most of her charitable work under cover of night through dark alleys.
Julia converted to Catholicism in 1880 and since then, an ardent member of the Catholic parish where she worshiped, she was a daily communicant, and became an active member of the Secular Franciscan Order starting in 1901. The Jesuit priests at her parish acknowledged her devotion to the Sacred Heart and honored her as the most fervent promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
One writer had called her a “one-person St. Vincent de Paul Society.” Her goodwill and kindliness earned her this title, and has made her the local paragon of mercy for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“She stood out because of how extraordinary she was,” David Uebbing, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Denver, told the Denver Catholic.
“Even though she was only earning $10 to $12 a month cleaning and cooking, she was using it to help other people who were poor,” he said.
She had particularly, a great devotion to the Sacred Heart and would deliver images and information about the icon to firefighters throughout Denver every month.That brings to life the corporal and spiritual works of mercy this holy year is dedicated to.
On the Feast of the Sacred Heart, June 7,1918 Julia Greeley passed away. Although her death was unforeseen, she was able to receive last rites. She was about 80 years when she died.
After her death, her body lay in state in a Catholic parish for five constant hours, as thousands of people swarm in to pay homage to this saintly woman.
Notwithstanding the fact that just one photograph exists of Greeley, carrying a child she was fond of at the time, the Archdiocese of Denver has commissioned an icon be made of her.
President of the Julia Greeley Guild, Mary Leisring, told Denver Catholic that she was happy about the commendation Julia was receiving during the Year of Mercy.
“We had a saint walking the streets of Denver, yet very few people know about her.”