Denver’s Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception is lofty and impressive — a house of worship, tabernacle of the Most Blessed Sacrament, symbol of the archbishop’s teaching ministry and mother church for more than half a million Catholics.
It is also where Servant of God Julia Greeley’s earthly remains are entombed, awaiting Resurrection on the last day.
The soul of the 19th-century Missouri native — a former slave, adult convert to Catholicism and current candidate for sainthood — rested well with God while vandals defaced the basilica’s doors, pilasters and grounds with satanic rants and epithets sometime before Sunday Mass on Oct. 10.
Miss Greeley knew hate, brutality and privation in this life, answering it with compassion, mercy and a better example.
Born and enslaved in what is now part of the Jefferson City diocese, she moved to Colorado, allowing God to cultivate in her the gifts of prophetic hope, radical charity and unceasing devotion to Jesus’s Most Sacred Heart.
Even before her death 104 years ago, many knew her as Denver’s Angel of Charity.
“Julia Greeley had a special way of saying she was praying for people,” Father Samuel Morehead, pastor and rector of the Cathedral Basilica, stated on Oct. 11. “She told them that she would ‘put that in the canoe.’”
The “canoe” was her collection of prayer intentions.
“I would ask the people of Missouri,” Fr. Morehead told The Catholic Missourian, “to put the needs of Denver’s Cathedral Basilica, all people who face abuse for their faith, and also the perpetrator of this act of gross vandalism into your own canoe of prayer.”
He considered what Miss Greeley might tell the people who vandalized the Cathedral.
“I think Julia would say that we have got to solve our problems with a little bit of human decency and respect,” said Fr. Morehead. “Acts of anger and hatred based on the creed of others don’t get anything done. Let’s have a grown-up conversation that chooses to respect each other, even when there are differences and frustrations.”
He believes Miss Greely would also be quick to remind people that God is in charge.
“He’s big, and we’re little,” Fr. Morehead imagined her saying. “We have to stay close to Him. He is faithful. Jesus holds all of us and all things that happen to us in the mystery of His Sacred Heart.”