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Julia Greely, the American slave who could be a saint


Julia Greely is known in Denver as the “angel of charity.” She was born into slavery in Missouri and was a victim of injustice. 

One of her masters beat her with a whip, causing her to lose sight in one eye. This is why she is usually painted with one eye closed. 

After gaining freedom, she worked in the homes of white families. In Denver, she understood the Catholic faith and felt a strong devotion to the Sacred Heart that would last a lifetime. 

FR. RON CATTANY
Archdiocese of Denver (U.S.)
"She was an American slave, who was freed, who then chose in her life to help other people, and to help the under privileged. It's not a native Coloradan. It's a slave, who learned the justices and injustices of life from a very early age. But she didn't let that stop her from living a life of holiness.”

Each month she visited the Denver Fire Department to tell them about the Sacred Heart. She brought them rosaries and taught them prayers, even though she had not received any training. 

FR. RON CATTANY
Archdiocese of Denver (U.S.)
“The other thing that's interesting, she couldn't read her or write. There's nothing that ever written down about her. Yet, when she died, she collapsed in church, because she went to Mass every day. She received communion every day. She collapsed in Sacred Heart church, and was brought to a nearby house where she died the next day. Her body, after her death, stayed at the church for about five hours. Hundreds of people in Denver came to view her, the rich and the poor.”

She walked the streets in the dark of night to tend to the poorest, and wasn't ashamed to receive help. 

When they exhumed her corpse, they discovered she had suffered rheumatoid arthritis in every bone in her body, and only six teeth. Yet that did not stop her from helping others.

FR. RON CATTANY
Archdiocese of Denver (U.S.)
“This angel of charity has been remembered for what she did, and remembered for what she did, not the fact that she was an ex-slave; not the fact that she was black; but the fact that she loved people, and she wanted to help them.”

In 1910, Julia Greely entered the Franciscan Order as a lay person, and was very active until her death in 1918. The Jesuits from the Sacred Heart parish in Denver considered her the most enthusiastic promoter of the Sacred Heart.