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Sainthood Cause Opened For Former Slave Who Served Denvers Poor

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Sainthood Cause Opened For Former Slave Who Served Denvers Poor

DENVER (CNS) — Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila Dec. 18 formally opened the sainthood cause of
Julia Greeley, a former slave who spent her days caring for the poor, during a
Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Denver.

Born into slavery in Missouri in
the 1840s, Julia Greeley gained her freedom after the Civil War and worked as a
nanny. She moved to Denver, where she was employed to care for the children of
William Gilpin, the first territorial governor of Colorado.

Known for her love of children
and the poor, Greeley also was a known for her piety, often passing out prayer
card devotions to the Sacred Heart. She was a convert to Catholicism.

Despite working long hours
taking care of children, cooking and cleaning, she would often be seen walking
at night through the streets of Denver pulling a small wagon of food and
supplies, which she would deliver to poor families. She was known as Denver’s
“Angel of Charity.”

In November, Archbishop Aquila
presented the case for Greeley’s potential sainthood at the annual fall general
assembly of the U.S. bishops in Baltimore. As part of the episcopal
consultation in the Catholic Church’s process for causes, the bishops Nov. 15 approved
by voice vote that her sainthood cause should go forward.

Once a cause has officially begun,
the candidate is declared a servant of God and a postulator is named. The next
step is a diocesan inquiry on the life of the person. The Vatican Congregation
for Saints’ Causes then reviews the gathered information, and if he or she is
found to have led a heroic life of Christian virtues, the church bestows the
title “Venerable.”

The next steps would be
beatification and canonization. In general, two miracles determined to have
occurred through the candidate’s intercession are needed for sainthood — one
for beatification and the second for canonization.

At a conference in Rome in
September sponsored by the Denver Archdiocese and the Pontifical Commission for
Latin America, Greeley was recognized in a group of evangelizers and
missionaries in the church in the Americas that included Jesuit Father Eusebio
Kino, who served in the U.S. Southwest, and Franciscan Father Antonio Margil de
Jesus, a missionary who evangelized North and Central America.

Greeley’s ministry to the poor on
the streets of Denver and her piety is all “evidence of a beautiful life … of a
saintly life,” said Martha Reichert, who is president of Endow, an
apostolate dedicated to educating Catholic women and girls.

Reichert said Greeley’s life shared
“a striking connection” with the Year of Mercy because it was an
example of the “enduring power of mercy.” Despite her sufferings at
the hands of white people, Greeley held no grudge, Reichert said, and she went
out of her way to help all poor people, no matter what their race.

The Julia Greeley Guild, headed
by Mary Leisring, has been working to spread awareness of Greeley since 2011.
As the director of black Catholic ministry for the Denver Archdiocese, Leisring
said she is thrilled at the possibility of Greeley’s canonization.

“She’s a model for me,” Leisring
said in a statement. “We’re all called to be saints, and it just goes to show
that an ordinary person can become extraordinary. For some of us, she’s already
a saint.”

– – –

Editors: More information about
the life of Julia Greeley can be found on the website of the Julia Greeley
Guild, http://juliagreeley.org.


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