Cemetery visitors say body of proposed saint being exhumed

(Photo: Celeste Williams)

KUSA – Visitors to Mount Olivet Cemetery told 9NEWS Friday they saw officials from the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver and the Vatican near the grave of proposed saint, Julia Greeley.

Candice Williams and her daughter, Celeste, told 9NEWS they were making arrangements for a loved one Friday when staff members told them Greeley’s body was being exhumed as part of a sainthood investigation.

“They had the excavation site set up and they had all of that going,” Celeste said. “The scientific equipment was there,” Candice added.

A check of the May 11th newsletter from the Denver-based Julia Greeley Guild confirmed Greeley’s body was expected to be exhumed and identified toward the end of the month.

“The event will give scientists an opportunity to determine more accurately her age at death and the cause thereof,” the newsletter said.

The newsletter said Roman postulator, Dr. Waldery Hilgerman, was expected to be present for the exhumation at Mt. Olivet Cemetery. After she’s identified, Greeley’s body will be taken to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception on Colfax Avenue in Denver, “where it will be more readily accessible to those devoted to her,” the newsletter said.

A postulator is someone who presents a case for the canonization or beatification of someone in the Roman Catholic Church.

Julia Greeley, known as Denver’s “Angel of Charity,” was born into slavery in Hannibal, Missouri between 1835 and 1855, according to the Julia Greeley Guild website.

She was emancipated from slavery and later worked for the family of William Gilpin, the first territorial governor of Colorado.

Greeley spent her time helping poor families in the Denver area. She pulled along a red wagon at night and dropped off food and clothing on people’s porches.

Julia Greeley entered the Catholic Church at Sacred Heart Parish in 1880. She was known to visit every fire station in Denver each month to drop off religious literature.

Greeley died June 7, 1918 at St. Joseph Hospital and was buried at Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

In December of 2016, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila petitioned the opening of a cause for Greeley’s canonization.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Archdiocese of Denver would only confirm “a private event” was being held at Mt. Olivet Cemetery Friday. She said a public event was planned for 10 a.m. June 7, which is also the 99th anniversary of Julia Greeley’s death.

© 2017 KUSA-TV

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