Saints and Holy People

Find out about their lives and how they changed the world

Servant of God Julia Greeley (c. 1835–1918)

Servant of God Julia Greeley (c. 1835–1918)

Julia Greeley was born into slavery in Hannibal, Missouri. She was never told her exact date of birth. When she was a child, her mother endured a beating from the slave master. The master’s whip struck Julia in the eye, and she never recovered from this injury. Julia was freed in 1865 by the State of Missouri. She earned her living as a housekeeper and moved with her employers to Denver, Colorado. Julia was drawn to the Catholic Church and was baptized on June 26, 1880.

Despite painful arthritis, Julia walked the streets, distributing pamphlets from the Sacred Heart League. In 1901, she joined the Secular Franciscans. She gave away her meager salary to those who needed it, along with coal, clothing, and groceries. At night, she would distribute these items from the red wagon she pulled along behind her. She chose nighttime to make her rounds, as she knew that some white families would be embarrassed to be seen accepting charity from a black woman.

Julia died on June 7, 1918. She was laid in state in Loyola Chapel in St. Ignatius Loyola Church in Denver. So far, she is the only layperson who has been given this honor. She was buried in Mount Olivet Cemetery. In 2017, her body was moved to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Denver.

(Image from Denver Catholic, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)