Meet Julia Greeley, who may become the first Black American canonized saint

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As one of a few Black American Catholics on the road to canonization, Julia represents a new demographic of saints.

If you haven’t heard of her, you’ve got to meet Julia Greeley. She may become our first Black American saint.

Julia’s generosity was the stuff of legend. It’s often those who have the least who are the most generous, and this proved true in her case. 

It’s been 104 years since her death on June 7, 1918, and today her kindness lives on, not only in her hometown of Denver, Colorado, but all over the world.

Lisa Cotter, a Catholic speaker and author, recently shared Julia’s story in her book Reveal the Gift: Living the Feminine Genius. She shared with Aleteia some of the things she loves about Julia:

Julia Greeley is a saint we should all get to know. She is one of a few Black American Catholics on the official road to potential canonization. 

“If she is canonized, she will represent a new demographic of saints,” Cotter said. 

The biggest lesson she’s learned from Julia’s life is that anyone can make a big difference, even if we think we’re not that well equipped to do God’s work. 

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“We often think you need immense resources to make a real impact,” Cotter said. “The most amazing thing about her is that she lived in poverty her whole life, yet found endless ways to pour out love and generosity on everyone around her.”

“Julia creatively lived both the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy. Despite her lack of prestige and resources, she made a massive impact in her community. What she did was not complicated, it was intentional. We can all learn from Julia how to love and care for our neighbor, no matter our circumstances.”

Julia died on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a day which is symbolic of her great love and closeness to the heart of Jesus. Cotter said,

“Julia’s life proves that when we give our hearts to Jesus, He always provides. She had next to nothing, yet she was always giving away her time and resources. Despite beginning her life enslaved, by the end of it she was truly free as she entrusted her heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus knowing that He would always take care of her.”

And just for good measure, these are 3 of the most memorable stories about Julia Greeley! All are quoted from Reveal the Gift, which includes vivid stories of many other holy women too. It’s a great summer read!

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1 SHE “CLOTHED THE NAKED”

“When young girls in her parish were not coming to youth activities because they could not afford appropriate dresses, Julia went to an affluent part of town and asked the wealthy families to buy new dresses for their daughters so that she could pass their gently used dresses on to ‘her girls.’”

2 SHE WON A BEAUTY CONTEST

“Once, when the young girls of her parish organized a beauty contest, Julia, advanced in years and missing an eye, convinced her firefighter friends to buy 10-cent tickets to vote for her. She swept the contest, raising $350.00—that is, selling a whopping 3,500 tickets!”

3 SHE EVEN GAVE AWAY HER GRAVE

“She even gave up her grave for a deceased elderly Black man to prevent him from being buried in a potter’s field … But God outdid her in her place of burial by giving her the only tomb in Denver’s Cathedral!”

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