American Slave Known as ‘Angel of Charity’ Considered for Sainthood

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Currents News Staff

The exhumed body of Julia Greely, a former slave and enthusiastic promoter of the Sacred Heart, has been moved to the cathedral of Denver for possible canonization.

Born between 1833 and 1848 in Hannibal, Missouri, Greely is known as the angel of charity. She is also well-known for her evangelism.

“She was an American slave, who was freed, who then chose in her life to help other people, and to help the underprivileged,” said Father Ron Cattany of the Archdiocese of Denver. “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.”

After gaining her freedom, Greely worked at white homes and to avoid embarrassment for the poor, did charitable works at night. She would give them wood, coal, and other supplies.

Each month she would go to the Denver fire station to tell them about the Sacred Heart and would give them rosaries, despite receiving no training. 

The Jesuits from the Sacred Heart parish in Denver considered her the most enthusiastic promoter of the Sacred Heart. Undeterred with having rheumatoid arthritis in every bone in her body, she did all her work on foot. She also had six teeth and couldn’t read or write. 

In 1910, Greely joined the Franciscan Order as a lay person and was active until her death, 1918.  

“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,” said Fr. Cantony. “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.”