Voices of Colorado Women: Julia Greeley

Voices of Colorado Women: Julia Greeley is the first installment in a large-scale project of telling the stories of significant women in Colorado’s history through song.

Few people know it, but in the late 1800s and early 1900s the city of Denver had its very own Mother Teresa. She was a former slave named Julia Greeley who made it her life’s work to help every needy person she could reach. Despite a life of extreme hardship – Julia even lost one of her eyes to the physical abuse she suffered at the hands of a slave owner – Julia was a profoundly joyful person who devoted all her energies to making others feel loved and accepted. As I learned more about Julia’s life in preparation for writing this piece, I was fascinated to discover that she also taught herself to play the piano when she was over 60 years old, giving at least one house concert at a friend’s home where she played and sang the gregorian Mass of the Angels. My piece attempts to tell Julia’s story from her perspective, and encapsulate the message of her life: that seemingly simple and everyday acts of love and forgiveness have an impact far beyond what we might imagine. Julia Greeley tells us that we can change the world, one heart at a time.

Sarah Perske

Sarah Perske’s piece Voices of Colorado Women: Julia Greeley will be performed on our April 29th concert, Colorado Landscapes


The world says “an eye for an eye.”
I lost mine when I was just a little child at my mother’s side
When the old master’s whip missed its mark –
And tore, ripped, sliced my face
Already scarred with pain and fear.

The world says “an eye for an eye,”
But the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Beckons me to love,
Love until it hurts,
And build up anyone who’s low.
Give until you run dry,
And all the world shall be yours.

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.

“Blessed are the merciful, mercy shall be theirs.”
They showed me none when I was just a little child,
And even now I hear harsh words, see hateful stares.
So I will show this poor old world all my love.

Me and my little red wagon
Will find Jesus where he’s most in need:
In the outcasts, in the hungry,
In the lonely, weak and poor.
If you hear a sound at midnight,
It’s just old Julia at your door
With whatever you need to survive another day.
I’ll beat a path to heaven’s door,
Spreading mercy and forgiveness on my way.

Kyrie eleison. Christe eleison. Kyrie eleison.

But the Sacred Heart of Jesus beckons me to love,
Love every person,
Love them even when it’s hard.
Love even when the world says, “an eye for an eye.”

For more information about Julia Greeley, please visit http://juliagreeley.org. I am greatly indebted to Fr. Blaine Burkey, O.F.M.Cap for the information provided in his book “In Secret Service of the Sacred Heart: The Life and Virtues of Julia Greeley”