Archdiocese honors Julia Greeley on 100th anniversary of her death

Hundreds gathered at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception the evening of June 7 to celebrate Mass for Servant of God Julia Greeley a century after she passed away.

Those in attendance had the opportunity to see Julia’s tomb up close and pay their respects to the woman on her way to sainthood.

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila presided over the Mass.

“Today is a historic day for the Church of northern Colorado as we gather in this Cathedral church to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the death of Julia Greeley on this vigil of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” he said during his homily.

The archbishop explained that Jesus’ selfless love given through the Eucharist is the same type of love Julia embodied in her own life.

“It is deeply rooted in sacrifice,” said Archbishop Aquila. “It is deeply rooted in giving oneself completely to the Lord no matter what the cost may be.”

Julia grew up a slave. She lost her eye when her mother was being beaten and the whip hit her instead, and yet she still lived a joyful life.

After becoming a free woman and moving to Denver, Julia walked around offering necessities to the poor. She spent one Friday a month walking to local firehouses, where she handed out pamphlets on the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Julia not only had courage to spread love in these ways, but she did it while battling arthritis all over her body.

“Even in the midst of her terrible arthritis and in the brokenness and pain of her own body, she still carried a joyful spirit because she knew the love of Christ,” said Archbishop Aquila.

“Her life is a witness to grace, to the power of God, and to the humility and the total gift of self.”

The archbishop asked those present to consider the deep love Jesus has for each and every one of them and to use Greeley’s life as an example of holiness.

“… we lift our hearts in gratitude to the father for the gift of the sacred heart of Jesus, for the gift of his son to the world, and for the faithfulness of a former slave woman who was truly rooted and grounded in love,” he said.

COMING UP: June 7 marks 100 years since Julia Greeley’s death

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June 7 marks 100 years since Julia Greeley’s death

Archbishop to celebrate special Mass honoring the life of Denver’s 'Angel of Charity’

“Is she a saint?”

File photo

So read the headline on the cover of the April 15, 1998 issue of the Denver Catholic Register, coupled with a picture of Julia Greeley. Little did the staff of the paper at the time know that 20 years later, her life would be actively scrutinized to answer that question.

Julia Greeley’s Cause for Canonization was opened Dec. 18, 2016 and she is now called a “Servant of God.” While a cause can typically take years to complete, there’s still plenty of reasons to reflect upon the life of this inspiring woman and look to the example of holiness she set during her time on earth.

June 7 will be a day to do just that, as it marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Julia Greeley. Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila will celebrate a Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to honor the life of Denver’s “Angel of Charity,” as she came to be known, and all are invited to partake in the celebration. What’s more is that the governor’s office will issue an official proclamation declaring the week of June 3 – 9 be recognized as “Julia Greeley Week.”

Click here to watch a livestream of the Mass on June 7.

As part of the festivities, Denver firefighters will provide an honor guard in recognition of Greeley’s own devotion to the Sacred Heart and her steadfast dedication to handing out Sacred Heart pamphlets to Denver fire stations.

Little is known about Julia Greeley and her life, but over the years, pieces of the puzzle have begun to come together. Capuchin Friar Father Blaine Burkey became fascinated with Greeley some years ago and compiled the most comprehensive volume on her life to date, entitled In Secret Service of the Sacred Heart: The Life and Virtues of Julia Greeley. 

Greeley earned a reputation as being a woman of charity as she walked the streets of Denver at night, hauling around food, clothes and other charitable goods in a little red wagon to hand out to those in need. As part of the canonization process, her bones were exhumed in November of last year and showed that she suffered from severe arthritis, meaning this task was likely a painful one for her. Nonetheless, she persisted through the pain and still found immense joy in serving others.

The Julia Greeley Guild is working hard to raise money to fund the expenses for Julia’s cause. Details on how to help contribute to the cause will be offered at the June 7 Mass, and the guild has several fundraisers planned, including one on June 10. The guild is also asking that anyone who had a devotion to Julia Greeley prior to their formation in 2011 send in a testimonial describing their long-standing devotion to her. These testimonies could help to move her cause along.

Monsignor Matthew Smith, founding editor of the Denver Catholic Register, wrote of Greeley in her 1918 obituary, “Her life reads like that of a canonized saint.” With prayer, grace and a commitment by the faithful to keeping Greeley’s memory alive, Msgr. Smith might not have been far off. Julia Greeley, pray for us!

Julia Greeley 100th anniversary Mass
Thursday, June 7, 5:30 p.m.
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

Julia Greeley Fundraiser

Sunday, June 10
Trattoria Stella, 3201 E. Colfax Ave.
5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

10% of the proceeds from the restaurant will go toward Julia Greeley’s cause