DENVER — The canonization process for Julia Greeley, also known as Denver’s “Angel of Charity,” took one step forward this month.
“Several thousand pages of documents were submitted to the Vatican and their job is to go through those and to see if this is first of all, someone who lived a life of virtue and second of all, lived an exemplary life that needs to be elevated,” said Father Ron Cattany, the pastor of the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, the church where Greeley is buried.
The process to make Greeley a saint began in 2016 and the Archdiocese of Denver recently received word that the documents were received and she passed the initial step in the process. Greeley is now officially considered “A Servant of God.”
The process is long and there are still several steps left.
But Cattany said through this process, more people are learning about Julia Greeley.
Greeley was born into slavery in Hannibal, Missouri in 1833.
“At the time she was enslaved, she lost her right eye from a slave master that was beating her mom,” said Mary Leisring, the president of the Julia Greeley Guild.
Leisring said Greeley was freed by the Missouri Emancipation Proclamation.
“Then she came to Colorado and worked with Mrs. Gilpin, who was the wife of our first territorial governor," Leisring said.
Mrs. Gilpin was Catholic and eventually Greeley became Catholic.
Around that same time, she began walking the streets of Denver with a little red wagon, carrying items to give to the homeless and those in need.
“She would usually make $10 to $12 a month but she always gave that away. Then, if she didn’t have money to buy things, she would beg for things,” Leisring said. “She never wanted to embarrass anyone so she would give those goods at night and she would usually have someone go and knock on the door and then hide so she could make sure that the people would get the gifts.”
Greeley was known for giving clothes and food to people in need.
She also gave baby carriages to expectant mothers and once carried a mattress on her back to give to someone who needed a bed.
Through her generous acts, she became known as Denver’s Angel of Charity.
Greeley died in 1918. After initially being buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Wheat Ridge, her remains were moved to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in 2016.
“Right after she died, her name stayed alive because people remember her presence on the streets in downtown and her service to other people. ... And so as that interest came to the attention of the church. The church started to move forward with her cause for sainthood,” Father Cattany said. “Whether she’s a saint or not, we know that she’s in heaven, we know that she’s looking at the face of God every day, and what we want her to do is put in a good word for us."
Cattany said there are a lot of saints who walk the streets of downtown Denver who will never receive formal recognition.
But the goal is for everyone to become a Julia Greeley to anybody in need who comes across their paths.