“We know from the stories passed on to us that Julia Greeley was tireless in her charity and in spreading the faith,” Bishop Rodriguez explained. “What we didn’t know until the exhumation is that Julia suffered from arthritis in her hands, feet, back…almost every joint that could have hurt, probably did. Nevertheless, she never stopped practicing and doing and showing love.”
Dr. Christine Pink, the forensic anthropologist responsible for the exhumation of Greeley’s remains, confirmed that Greeley did indeed suffer from arthritis.
“The finding of arthritis was special just given what we know about her walking to all the fire stations and doing what she did. She likely was in pain, and joyful despite that,” Pink said.
The bishop spoke of the hope that the ceremony represented – hope that because of Christ’s conquering of the grace, the dead will one day, too, be resurrected.
“Our ceremony today is just a very small confession that we believe in resurrection of the body and in the communion of saints. This is why we are here in this place,” he said. “We are saying those bones will rise on the last day, and today, we are particularly united to Julia Greeley.”
The remains of Julia Greeley were placed in a custom made wooden funerary box, and the faithful were invited to view them. As people came up, they would bow in reverence, kiss the funerary box and even place cloths, rosaries and other items on the case that housed her remains. Those items could become third-class relics should Julia Greeley be canonized a saint.
After the viewing, the box was screwed shut by a carpenter, sealed with gold wax and placed underneath the Sacred Heart statue in the side chapel to the west of the main altar.
The day had come sooner than expected for some.
“This is a great day. We never thought it would come so soon when we started to move things, but God certainly had his own plan,” said Capuchin Friar Father Blaine Burkey, whose book In Secret Service of the Sacred Heart: The Life and Virtues of Julia Greeley is likely the most extensive volume compiled about Julia Greeley’s life.
Mary Leisring, president of the Julia Greeley guild, was overjoyed to see the cathedral full of so many devoted to Greeley.
“Whether she gets to be a saint in Rome or not does not matter to me, she’s already my saint,’ Leisring said.
This article originally appeared in the Denver Catholic June 9. Reprinted with permission.
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