Christmas shopping with Servant of God Julia Greeley


Servant of God Julia Greeley, who grew up in slavery near Hannibal before the Civil War, was known even in her lifetime as an Angel of Charity.

Her self-effacing kindness, missionary zeal and devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus emblazoned her memory onto the minds of people who encountered her in Denver, where she spent most of her adult life.

She was blind in one eye due to the harsh treatment she had received as a slave. Her body bore the ravages of excessive, menial work.

She never earned much money as a housekeeper, even to a governor of Colorado and his family.

But as a convert to Catholic Christianity and a professed member of the Secular Order of St. Francis, she held nothing back in helping people who were worse off than she was.

When she ran out of her own money to give away, she begged for more.

She worked in darkness and secret, in deference to the dignity of the people she was helping.

Now, more than a century after her death, her earthly remains await the Resurrection from a place of honor in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver.

The Denver archdiocese opened a sainthood cause for her in 2017 and began compiling an abundance of information about her to send to the Church’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Contained therein are written recollections of people who witnessed and benefitted from her kindness and generosity, mostly as children.

Capuchin Franciscan Father Blaine Berkey included many such letters in his book, In Sacred Service of the Sacred Heart: The Life and Virtues of Julia Greeley.

One is from Theodora Arnold to Eleanor Pavella Castellan, who was researching Miss Greeley’s life 50 years ago.

The letter states, in part:

“I’ll never forget our first Christmas without Mother.

“Julia told us she was going to ask Father if she could take Margaret and me downtown at night to see the display of lights and all the toys in the basement of the Denver Dry Goods.

“When there, she told us to pick out anything we wanted for Christmas. I remember my sister picked out a three-piece toilet set — comb, mirror and brush — while I, after hearing so much about the hard times looked at the price tag and picked a little wooden bucket and shovel, all for 10 cents and only suitable for a 2-year-old child.

“Julia said, ‘Oh, no, child, you want something better than that.’

“And then she bought me a doll’s trunk, costing a dollar and also the bucket. … She was getting $10 a month in wages.

“After that, we often saw Julia on the streets, delivering the Sacred Heart League leaflets to the firemen.”

Please pray for a miraculous sign of God’s favor on a humble woman whose charity and mercy still outshines the darkness she was subjected to while she was growing up in this state.