Remains of former slave moved to Denver cathedral in step to possible sainthood

DENVER — The remains of a former slave, Julia Greeley, were moved to a Catholic cathedral in Denver on Wednesday in what might be a step toward sainthood for the lay woman.

Photo: Julia Greeley Guild

Greeley is the first person to be interred at Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, which opened in 1912.

She was a domestic worker who died in 1918 and was known for her generous charity work.

According to the Julia Greeley Guild, an organization that promotes the former slave’s work, she was born into slavery in Missouri sometime between 1833 and 1848.

Greeley’s eye was destroyed by a slavemaster’s whip while he was also beating her mother.

The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 set Greeley free and she continued working for white families in various states, spending most of her time in Denver.

Greeley reportedly delivered necessities for neighbors who couldn’t afford supplies needed to live day to day.

She did her service work at night to avoid being seen and saved those she helped from embarrassment.

The former slave was a member of the Catholic Church at Sacred Heart Parish and was known to walk to area fire stations, preaching of the Sacred Heart League.

Greeley joined the Secular Franciscan Order in 1901 and was active in it until her death.

During the procession into the church, people lined up to touch and lay rosary beads on the wooden chest containing the woman’s skull and other remains.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Greeley’s remains were exhumed from Mount Olivet Cemetery last month in a step that is typical in the sainthood process.

The move to the cathedral came 99 years to the day after the former slave died on her way to Mass.

Testimony regarding Greeley’s life, notable charitable works and possible miracles will be sent to the Vatican in the fall for consideration to begin an investigation into the woman’s sainthood.

The process of becoming a saint often takes many years.