Anyone familiar with Fr. Blaine Burkey, O.F.M.Cap, knows that he is meticulous when it comes to detail. It was with this close attention to names, dates and facts that Fr. Blaine set out to unearth the history of Julia Greeley’s life.
Julia Greeley was born in slavery, but freed during the Civil War. She did not remember a great deal about her childhood, but lived for a number of years in St. Louis, Missouri. She came West in about 1878-1880 to work for Julia Pratt Gilpin, wife of the ex-territorial governor of Colorado. Mrs. Gilpin, who regularly attended the old cathedral on Stout Street in Denver, played a large part in Julia Greeley’s conversion to Catholicism. Julia joined the Church at Sacred Heart Parish in 1880, less than two months after the church was dedicated, and she remained a parishioner there for the rest of her life. In addition to being a daily Communicant from the time of her conversion, Julia was charitable to an astonishing degree and was possessed of an incredible devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin and the Blessed Sacrament. She worked to distribute Sacred Heart League leaflets and visited every firehouse in Denver to bring these leaflets to Catholic firemen. Julia constantly visited the poor, giving them assistance from her own meager means. Often she went at night to the homes of poor white people to deliver the goods she had begged so as not to bring shame upon them. One remarkable story recounts how, after finding an unwanted infant, Julia found a poor family that needed it and begged for goods on their behalf.
Upon Julia Greeley’s death, while her body lay in state, limousines and giant touring cars brought the rich to pay their final respects. The poor flocked to the chapel in massive numbers. The Sacred Heart Church was filled to capacity for her funeral.
In his research, Fr. Blaine uncovered many facts and unknown stories concerning Julia Greeley’s life. These were compiled in his book In Secret Service of the Sacred Heart: The Life and Virtues of Julia Greeley
. No doubt this text played a pivotal role in the recent decision of Archbishop of Denver Samuel J. Aquila to officially open Julia’s cause for canonization on December 18, thus declaring her a Servant of God. Such a declaration is the first step toward a possible beatification and canonization, if that be God’s will. The archbishop’s decision to do so was endorsed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops at its November 14 meeting.
Learn more about Julia Greeley in this video, "Our Model of Mercy."
For additional information about Servant of God Julia Greeley, see the following....
- Official Website of the Julia Greeley Guild
- The Julia Greeley Home (a refuge for homeless women)