Julia Greeley tour reconnects old family friend

A faith-filled group of pilgrims followed in the footsteps of Denver’s “Angel of Charity” Julia Greeley last weekend, but for one participant, the pilgrimage was an opportunity to learn more about a longtime, beloved family friend.

California native Virginia Haddad first heard of Julia Greeley as a young girl; she remembers being around six or seven when her mother first showed her an old newspaper clipping that had republished the only known photo of Julia Greeley.

“She told me about Julia,” Haddad recalled, “and that this was the only picture of this woman, and that the child was Aunt Marge, and she was a holy person who helped a lot of people in Denver.”

The story of the photograph begins with Denver residents Agnes and George Urquhart, who had lost their first child in infancy. Doctors had told them they couldn’t have any more children, but when Julia met the couple and heard the news, she thought it was “nonsense.”

“You will have another child,” she told the Urquharts, “and she will be my little white angel.”

Roughly a year later, Marjorie Ann Urquhart was born on Sept. 11, 1915. Haddad’s mother, Virginia Rose, was born in 1918.

Haddad told the Denver Catholic that growing up she knew of Julia, but she didn’t know a lot of details. “[My mother] told me that [Julia] used to be a slave, and she lost an eye because she was hit by the tip of a slave master’s whip, and she was blind in one eye.”

It wasn’t until years later, when Haddad found herself searching for more information on Julia Greeley on the Internet, that she found the Julia Greeley Guild, and Capuchin Father Blaine Burkey’s book “In Secret Service of the Sacred Heart.”

California native Virginia Haddad joined the Julia Greeley bus tour Feb. 21 to learn more about a beloved family friend. In the only known photo of Denver’s “Angel of Charity,” Julia is holding Haddad’s aunt, Marjorie Urquhart.

California native Virginia Haddad joined the Julia Greeley bus tour Feb. 21 to learn more about a beloved family friend. In the only known photo of Denver’s “Angel of Charity,” Julia is holding Haddad’s aunt, Marjorie Urquhart.

“I ordered a copy,” she revealed. “In fact, I ordered a couple copies.”

Upon reading more about Julia, Haddad, a professed lay Franciscan, began to learn new details of Julia’s life that gave her even more reasons to feel connected to her. “For example, I didn’t know she was a lay Franciscan until I read Father Blaine’s book.”

Knowing more about Julia created an excitement in Haddad, who began to spread the word about Julia to many of the people in her life, particularly other lay Franciscans in her fraternity.

She even sent a copy to Martin Sheen in hopes that he would consider doing a movie on Julia.

When reading the most recent newsletter of the Julia Greeley Guild, Haddad learned about the Julia Greeley being named the model of mercy for the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and that a pilgrimage to sites associated with her was being organized over a three-day holiday weekend. After discovering some affordable plane tickets, and receiving an offer from the Capuchins for free lodging, it seemed to all come together.

“I felt strongly that I should be out here,” she said. “I felt that for this pilgrimage there should be someone from the family here.”

The bus tour gave Haddad an opportunity to know more about the saintly woman who had such a powerful influence on her grandparents’ life, but what impressed her most about the ex-slave was the “extent of her charity.”

“I read about [her charity] in the book, but to hear Father Blaine talk about it more, and to see the places, it almost puts me to shame because what I do is so fractional compared to what she did,” Hadded reflected. “Some of us in the group were talking today and asked, when did this woman sleep?

“During the day she was doing physical work, and then in the evenings she was out and about walking, delivering things, carrying a mattress on her back, carrying sacks of potatoes, actually dragging them in a little red wagon. She was an amazing person.”

Learn more about Julia Greeley at JuliaGreeley.org.

COMING UP: Q&A: USCCB clarifies intent behind bishops’ Eucharist document

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Last week, the U.S. bishop concluded their annual Spring meeting, during which much about the Church in the U.S was discussed. In particular, the bishops voted to draft a document on the meaning of Eucharistic life in the Church, which was approved by an overwhelming majority.

Since then, speculation about the nature of the document has run rampant, the chief of which is that it was drafted specifically to instigate a policy aimed directly at Catholic politicians and public figures whose outward political expressions and policy enactment do not align with Church teaching.

The USCCB has issued a brief Q&A clarifying the intent of the document, and they have emphasized that “the question of whether or not to deny any individual or groups Holy Communion was not on the ballot.”

“The Eucharist is the source and summit of Christian life,” the USCCB said. “The importance of nurturing an ever
deeper understanding of the beauty and mystery of the Eucharist in our lives is not a new topic for the bishops. The document being drafted is not meant to be disciplinary in nature, nor is it targeted at any one individual or class of persons. It will include a section on the Church’s teaching on the responsibility of every Catholic, including bishops, to live in accordance with the truth, goodness and beauty of the Eucharist we celebrate.”

Below are a few commonly asked questions about last week’s meeting and the document on the Eucharist.

Why are the bishops doing this now?

For some time now, a major concern of the bishops has been the declining belief and understanding of the Eucharist among the Catholic faithful. This was a deep enough concern that the theme of the bishops’ strategic plan for 2021-2024 is Created Anew by the Body and Blood of Christ: Source of Our Healing and Hope. This important document on the Eucharist will serve as a foundation for the multi-year Eucharistic Revival Project, a major national effort to reignite Eucharistic faith in our country. It was clear from the intensity and passion expressed in the individual interventions made by the bishops during last week’s meeting that each bishop deeply loves the Eucharist.

Did the bishops vote to ban politicians from receiving Holy Communion?

No, this was not up for vote or debate. The bishops made no decision about barring anyone from receiving Holy Communion. Each Catholic — regardless of whether they hold public office or not — is called to continual conversion, and the U.S. bishops have repeatedly emphasized the obligation of all Catholics to support human life and dignity and other fundamental principles of Catholic moral and social teaching.

Are the bishops going to issue a national policy on withholding Communion from politicians?

No. There will be no national policy on withholding Communion from politicians. The intent is to present a clear understanding of the Church’s teachings to bring heightened awareness among the faithful of how the Eucharist can transform our lives and bring us closer to our creator and the life he wants for us.

Did the Vatican tell the bishops not to move forward on drafting the document?

No. The Holy See did encourage the bishops to engage in dialogue and broad consultation. Last week’s meeting was the first part of that process. It is important to note that collaboration and consultation among the bishops will be key in the drafting of this document.


Featured photo by Eric Mok on Unsplash