Julia Greeley was a familiar sight on the streets of Denver in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Wearing a floppy hat, oversized shoes, and dabbing her bad eye with a handkerchief, Greeley was often seen pulling her red wagon of goods to deliver to the poor and homeless of the city. She had a particularly special devotion to the Sacred Heart, and would deliver images and information about the icon to firefighters throughout Denver every month.
Her charitable work earned her the title of a “one-person St. Vincent de Paul Society” from one writer, and has made her the local model of mercy for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
Born a slave in Hannibal, Missouri sometime between 1833 and 1848, Greeley endured some horrific treatment – once, a whip caught her right eye and destroyed it as a slave master beat Greeley’s mother.
One of many slaves freed by Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, Greeley’s work with the family of William Gilpin, Colorado’s first territorial governor, brought her to Denver in 1878.
After leaving the Gilpins’ service, Greeley found odd jobs around the city, and came upon the Sacred Heart Parish of Denver, where she would convert to Catholicism in 1880. She was an enthusiastic parishioner, a daily communicant, and became an active member of the Secular Franciscan Order starting in 1901. The Jesuit priests at her parish recognized her as the most fervent promoter of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Read More at Catholic News Agency.