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Former Slave Considered for Sainthood, Becomes First Person Entombed in Denver Cathedral

Photo Credit: Julia Greeley Home via Facebook
Photo Credit: Julia Greeley Home via Facebook

A former slave is being considered for sainthood by the Catholic Church, but first, she will receive the unique honor of being the first person to be entombed in a Denver cathedral. 

According to The Washington Post, Julia Greeley was known for her charity and her willingness to help those in poverty.

Born into slavery in Missouri, she lost an eye as a child when her master whipped her.  After the Civil War, she moved to Denver where she was known to many as "One-eyed Julia."  However, many knew her as an angel who worked tirelessly to help the poor.

She worked as a housekeeper for white families.  A devout Catholic, she used her position to raise money for church charity programs and also gave away a lot of her own earnings to help those in need. 

Giving to others was so much in her soul that at one point, she even gave away her own burial plot, as reported by the Post.

When calling on poor white families, she would save them from the embarrassment of taking charity from an old black woman waiting until late at night to visit when their neighbors would be asleep. 

When she died 100 years ago on June 8, 1918, she was loved by both black and white families alike. Some of those families purchased a new burial plot for her and her funeral attended by hundreds of people of all races was held at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church was covered by newspapers across the country. 

On Thursday, Greeley will be entombed at Denver's Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.

Julia Greeley "will be the first person buried in Denver's cathedral," said Auxiliary Bishop Jorge H. Rodríguez, according to Denver Catholic. "Not a bishop, not a priest — a laywoman, a former slave. Isn't that something?"

Back in 2016, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops gave its approval for Greeley's canonization process. The Post reports she is one of six African-Americans and three former slaves under review for sainthood. 

"Every time I talk about her story I get heart palpitations because I get so excited about it," Mary Leisring, president of the Julia Greeley Guild, which seeks to spread awareness of Greeley's story told the Post.  

"Everybody's not going to be a Mother Teresa, but Julia can show everybody that you can be ordinary and become extraordinary, just by being selfless and giving," she said. "She didn't have a lot, but she gave what she could."

The road to sainthood is a long process within the Catholic Church, and although Greeley may never complete it, there are those who already think of her that way.

"We didn't start the Julia Greeley Guild thinking that she was going to become a saint," Leisring told the Post. "Because to most of us, she's already a saint."

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