‘Julia’s canoe’ fills with prayer intentions

Testimonies of miraculous intercession by Julia Greeley could help move her cause for canonization forward

Moira Cullings

Julia Greeley’s selfless life has captured the attention of Catholics around the world.

Many believe the former slave and now Servant of God who spent her life serving others is answering their prayers and providing miracles for themselves and their loved ones.

“It really grounds me in the sense that she should be a saint,” said Mary Leisring, Director of the Office of Black Catholic Ministry and President of the Julia Greeley Guild. “Hopefully Rome sees that as well.”

The next step in Julia’s cause for canonization would be for her to become venerable, then after one miracle to become blessed and after one more to become a saint.

The Julia Greeley Guild, which is currently made up of 140 people, knows of 849 “friends of Julia” who have written in seeking relics and additional information about Julia. The Guild also receives prayer intentions, which it prays for through her intercession.

“I’m blessed in a lot of ways to be able to be the president of the guild and read all the things that are happening for her and by her and in her,” said Leisring.

The guild has received several testimonies from people who believe their prayers through Julia’s intercession have been answered. Those testimonies could become crucial if Julia makes it to the venerable phase.

It would be no surprise if Julia plays a part in answering the prayers of those who seek her help — Julia once responded to a local grocery and café employee’s request for prayers with, “Mary, I’ll put you in a canoe with a lot of others I pray for. …”

“She used that metaphor to tell people that she would pray for them,” said Leisring.

The guild accepts prayers through a virtual canoe via email but hopes to obtain a real canoe, place it in the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception where Julia’s body is interred, and allow visitors to put their prayer intentions inside it.

Those who have already added their intentions to Julia’s canoe and expressed interest in her life give Leisring hope that the cause will continue to move forward.

“Her life story is such a powerful story,” she said.

Leisring believes after Julia lost her eye when a slave master caught it with his whip, “somehow the Holy Spirit and the Lord touched Julia and guided her and graced her to be able to treat people and serve the poor, serve firemen, anybody she met.

“They didn’t have to be Catholic,” she added, “she was always just a giving person.”

Leisring hopes Julia’s selfless service continues to inspire others to strive for holiness.

“Here’s a person that I really believe has been graced by God to do the things she did in the era that she did them,” said Leisring. “It shows that ordinary people can become extraordinary.”

If you have an urgent petition, send a brief report of it to juliascanoe@gmail.com or by mail to Julia Greeley Guild, 1535 N. Logan St., Denver CO 80203. Visit juliagreeley.org for more information or if you are interested  in joining the Julia Greeley Guild.

COMING UP: The shock of forgiveness

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Every so often, the media will pick up a story that serves as a potent reminder of what it means to be a Christian. That’s because living as a Christian in today’s post-Christian society is an unusual way of living, contrary to what the rest of society might say about it. It is not “outdated.” It is not “irrelevant.” It is radical, countercultural and, to some, even incomprehensible.

On Oct. 2, the trial of Amber Guyger came to a close. Guyger, a former Dallas police officer, was charged with the murder of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old man who lived in the same apartment complex as Guyger. On Sept. 6, 2018, she walked into Jean’s apartment, thinking it was hers, saw Jean sitting there on the couch, and after giving verbal commands, shot him twice, killing him. It was an absolute tragedy and played into the ongoing national conversation about police behavior toward people of color (Guyger is white; Jean is black).

What I want to focus on is a particular moment that came at the end of Guyger’s trial, after she had been sentenced to 10 years in prison. Jean’s younger brother Brandt took to the witness stand to address his brother’s killer directly. He wasn’t planning on saying anything during the trial but changed his mind at the last minute. A prompting of the Holy Spirit? I think yes, based on what happened next.

“I hope you go to God with all the guilt, all the bad things you may have done in the past,” Brandt told Guyger. “If you are truly sorry … I forgive you. If you go to God and ask him, he will forgive you.” He continued, “I’m not going to say I hope you die … I personally want the best for you … I don’t even want you to go to jail. I want the best for you, because I know that’s exactly what Botham would want … and the best would be: give your life to Christ. Giving your life to Christ would be the best thing that Botham would want you to do.”

But it didn’t stop there. Brandt was bold enough to ask the judge if he had permission to give Guyger a hug. He was granted it, and they embraced for over a minute, Guyger weeping into Brandt’s shoulder, just as some of us might do were we to be embraced by Christ.

Botham Jean’s younger brother Brandt Jean hugs former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger after delivering his impact statement to her in Dallas, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019. Guyger has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing her black neighbor in his apartment, which she said she mistook for her own unit one floor below. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

Brandt has every reason to hate Guyger. This woman gunned down his innocent brother who had his whole life ahead of him and was given a lighter sentence than what she originally faced. Those in the courtroom and watching on TV wouldn’t have been shocked to hear Brandt tell Guyger that he hopes she rots in hell. No, the shock from those in the courtroom – and subsequently, the rest of the nation – came when Brandt did the exact opposite.

With those words and the simple act of embracing his brother’s killer, Brandt gave the world an incredible witness to the forgiveness Christ calls us to live as Christians. Of course, you can count on the bickering voices of social media and pundits to take this powerful moment and exploit it for their own agenda, but that’s because many of them don’t understand. It is not normal in our culture to forgive. It is also not easy. And that’s what makes witnessing something like this so shocking. It was not supposed to happen, but it did. It defied every expectation. Make no mistake about it: Brandt was living his call to be more like Christ in that moment. And it is exactly this moment – this shocking moment – that we are able to get a glimpse of what it is to be a Christian.

Following Jesus does make for quite a shock. And it is that shock that we are called to bring to the rest of the world, just as Brandt Jean did.