Exhumation of Julia Greeley (continued)

_________

CONTINUED FROM HOME PAGE:   

The tone of the exhumation, a delicate and reverent event which stretched for 8 hours the first day and into the weekend, was set by the opening ritual, which began with the Archbishop leading the readings and prayers around Julia’s grave. Among the readings was the passage from Paul's letter to the Corinthians: "Listen, I will tell you a mystery ... " which is the Resurrection, when “a trumpet will sound and the dead will be raised imperishable …”

So solemn was the occasion that each gravedigger, and each member of the medical examiner's team, was required to swear individually on a Bible that they would honor the process and not reveal the official findings of the exhumation.

The event itself was attended by about 25 people, most connected by the Julia Greeley Guild, which is charged with the responsibility of supporting Julia’s canonization process at the local level. (For all information about Julia’s canonization, go to the Guild’s website, juliagreeley.org.)

Here at the Julia Greeley Home, we are inspired by Julia Greeley as a woman who triumphed over a painful life to do good in the world, and with the help of God, realize her own dignity and independence. Think of it: A poor, disabled 19th century African-American woman, born into slavery, who walked painfully through Denver neighborhoods for decades offering what she could to those poorer than she. 

How many times did "Old Julia," as she was called, limp past the Cathedral, hauling her little wagon of clothing and food for the poor?

Now, at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 7, 2017, "Old Julia" will be reburied in the Cathedral, with honors. 

 

AN EVENING AT THE JULIA GREELEY HOME

Spring 2017

Marriage, Family, Forgiveness — every topic was on the table when I met with the women of the Julia Greeley Home in early April. The group of 17 women also included the young mothers from Shannon’s Hope, the Christian ministry which shares the residence with us. It’s the first of many monthly visits I’m planning to make. I want each woman who enters this beautiful home to know she is valued and loved, and that our Christian faith supports her in her goal to achieve self sufficiency.

I also wanted each woman to understand that the Julia Greeley Home is built on the foundation of Catholic Christianity, which is my faith, which gave me my vocation as a Capuchin priest, and inspired me to found Julia’s three and a half years ago.

It was a special evening too, because we were able to celebrate the fact that two Julia Greeley women, Camille and “Trudi,” have recently achieved self sufficiency. Each of them received a simple necklace-cross from Julia’s, which we hope will always remind them of what they have accomplished. 

I hope you’ll take the time to click on Camille’s Story (see News blogs, at the right of the home page). Her story shows how even educated, smart, professional women can quickly lose everything in this harsh world. But Camille fought her way back! We are proud to say that she is using her many managerial skills on our staff, and is inspiring new Julia Greeley residents to reach their goals, too. “Trudi” wishes to remain anonymous, so we’ve given her another name. Let me just say she has bravely moved onward after many setbacks, and we are happy to know she has found an apartment, a job, and a new life.   

So I am very grateful to God for His constant help to to women in trauma and crisis. Before the Julia Greeley Home, when I counseled women to help them move past homelessness, so many would say, “But Father, I have nowhere to go!” 

Now, thanks be to God, she does.

 I suspected that few of the women had ever met a friar-priest in brown robes before, and they might be curious. I was right! But as a former high school math teacher, I enjoy getting tough questions from a crowd.

“Ask me anything,” I said as the evening began. The questions were so deep and thoughtful, that at one point I kidded, “Wow, I thought we wouldn’t get to these kind of questions 'til the 3rd or 4th time!” 

To give you an idea of our conversation: “What is a true friend? A friend always supports you, right?” (Not necessarily, because if they supporting you to do something wrong, that is not a true friend.)

“What if you can't forgive God for something? Am I a bad person if I can't forgive? How can I forgive when I don’t even feel like it?” (You don’t have to feel like forgiving, I said. Forgiveness is not a feeling. It’s an act of the will. Allow yourself the chance to forgive, even if you don’t feel like it, and let God do the rest.) 

“Why did you want to be a priest?” I did my best to explain how a tough kid from Pittsburgh started to hear God’s call breaking through the exciting, late ‘50s teenage world of parties, girls and college plans. But that kind of happiness didn’t feel like it would hold up forever. But giving my life to God? That felt like a permanent happiness, and after 40-plus years of priesthood, it’s turned out to be true!

“What is a good marriage? Is it OK to get out of a bad marriage? What is an annulment?” We were heading out into deep waters there, and after some serious back and forth we all agreed it was a good topic to pick up next month.

My thanks to Glenda Bolin, who gave up teaching her Bible class That Monday night, so I could be there. Thanks also to Terri Nalty and her son, Emilio, for providing volunteer support staff that night (Terri is from the same Denver chapter of the Secular Franciscan Order that Julia Greeley herself belonged to a century ago). And thanks also to our on-site director, Leslie Collins-Pottebaum, who emailed some very kind words the next day that she thought the evening was Holy Spirit-inspired, “and that only adds to the Home’s environment, and to our motivation to continue to do a good job.”

I am grateful for their work and commitment. 

 

 

Camille's Story

"WHAT I THOUGHT WAS THE END, WAS THE BEGINNING." 

These are the words of Camille M. Her new beginning began when she came to the Julia Greeley Home in 2016. The years before had been a brutal succession of deaths and family losses. She was already raw from painful conditions of arthritis and fibromyalgia. The pile-on of physical and emotional pressures had become unbearable. The talented and capable office manager could no longer work, and eventually she lost her home. 

Camille’s story shows how quickly life can collapse even for talented, bright, independent career women. Our society is harsh and unforgiving when a person becomes even temporarily vulnerable. That’s why the Julia Greeley Home was founded. For Camille, all seemed lost — until she found the Julia Greeley Home.

Today, says Camille: “What I thought was ‘the end’  when I came here, turned out to be the beginning.”

Here is Camille’s story. It’s based on an interview she gave to writer Anna Chase:

“I might cry, so bear with me. My life began to unravel in July 2009 at, of all things, a family barbecue. We were all having a good time, when my brother-in-law, Ken, suddenly collapsed. We frantically tried to revive him with CPR but he died at the hospital. We were very close, and the sudden unexpectedness of his death deeply disturbed me. Then  six months later, my sister Toni, who was just one year older than I am, died of kidney failure. The following July, my son, Vincent, passed away at the age of 24 from complications of an enlarged heart. We were very close. But the shocks weren’t over. About a year after that, my mother Margaret died at the age of 82.  

Obviously, these deaths didn’t just weigh on my heart, they also took a toll on my body. I have suffered with fibromyalgia syndrome since 1995, in addition to general arthritis throughout my body. The added stress and grief was like adding another layer of physical pain on top of the excruciating daily pressure of physical pain. I could barely get out of bed. 

That’s when my professional life began to suffer, and things really began to spiral downward.

"For 15 years I had a challenging and fulfilling career with the federal government in Boulder, and I loved the work. Then, just as I was trying to deal with my grief and physical pain, some new supervisors were brought into our division. During that shake-up period, a woman I had worked with for many years and who had never liked me, saw a chance to get rid of me. I needed to miss a lot of work because of my declining health, and she used that fact to force me to go on probation. The scheme worked. I ended up losing my job in the federal government. 

So there I was — 54 years old, unemployed, almost immobilized with pain, and still emotionally devastated over the loss of my son, and so many other people I loved! When I lost my financial support, it wasn’t long before I lost my home, too. I really didn’t know what I was going to do. Then a friend of mine, who I used to work with in Boulder, called one day. He had a friend whose mother was the director at two women’s homes in Arvada. He suggested I give her a call.

So that’s how I ended up coming to the Julia Greeley Home. The most important thing that I’ve learned about myself is that no matter how bad I think things are I always end up in a good place. The safety and stability I found here, plus the love of the staff, was something I hadn’t really gotten anywhere else.  It gave me time to see things more clearly. 

Today, I tell other women undergoing similar struggles that they need to focus on themselves and remember that they are valuable, worthwhile human beings. There is always somebody there to help. They only have to look and ask — and not be afraid to ask. And they need to know they are going to be okay.”

Camille is now putting her managerial expertise to work as house manager and liaison for the Julia Greeley Home and for Shannon’s Hope, the beautiful ministry for pregnant women whose home we share. 

As we begin our 4th year, thank you!

February-March  2017

TO ALL OUR PRESENT AND FUTURE FRIENDS OF JULIA'S, 

Just over three years ago the Julia Greeley Home opened its doors to help women who are alone and trying to transition from being homeless. In our family style residence based on Christian values, women are freed from the dangers of street violence. In peace and security they receive the time and skills to recover their lives and become self sufficient. 

Thank you for all you are doing to help us! 

Since opening, Julia’s moved from a small 4 bed home to a home double the size. By the start of 2017, nearly a dozen formerly homeless women graduated from Julia’s and began new lives of meaning and purpose. I pray for their longterm success.

For example, thanks to our partnership with the Ward Family Foundation of Alexandria VA, a graduate of Julia’s won a full scholarship in 2016 to become a licensed practical nurse, which will be the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. 

Other residents found jobs, apartments, and reconciled with family. This is why Julia’s exists, it is to help each individual woman, one woman at a time.

Always, we want to reflect the beautiful values and the life of our patron, Julia Greeley, who overcame incredible odds as a person born into slavery, who was treated cruelly and left half blind, lame and very poor. She turned to Jesus Christ for strength and became a beloved person in Denver, helping others who were also poor and beaten by life. One hundred years later, in late 2016, Julia was launched on the road to become a canonized saint in the Catholic Church. She shows each person’s life has meaning and dignity. That is our message and goal at the Julia Greeley Home. 

Matt Kosak: A firefighter who came to help

When sombody came to me last fall and said, “A gentleman from the Westminster Fire Department is here to see you,” I couldn’t imagine why. It was firefighter and paramedic Matt Kosak, who had another surprise for me: a generous check for the Julia Greeley Home! Matt had been named Community Advocate of the Year and was given money to put toward a good cause. He looked into our mission for helping homeless women achieve self sufficiency, and chose us.

There's quite a story behind Matt’s generosity. He won the award from the Westminster Citizen Fire Academy Alumni group (Westy CFIRE) for an outstanding series of choices he’s made in life, which I can only call heroic.

Besides being a Westminster firefighter and paramedic, Matt, who grew up in Arvada, fought for America in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. When he got home he didn’t hang up his boots and take it easy — no, he volunteered to be a bone marrow donor to someone he never met.

Matt’s bone marrow donation saved that stranger’s life. To this day, the stranger is doing well, and her leukemia is in complete remission. That started a whole new role for Matt as a volunteer coordinator for the “Be the Match” foundation, which links bone marrow donors with recipients. 

Today Matt inspires others in the fire department, his EMT group, paramedic students and even city employees of Denver to donate bone marrow. Matt went beyond just inspiration to create a donation process so that it’s easier for individuals to sign up and get involved.

That’s how Matt’s exceptional outreach to so many led to his recognition as Westy CFIRE’s Community Advocate of the Year, and eventually to the Julia Greeley Home.

You know, 100 years ago, our patron, Julia Greeley, had a special ministry to firefighters and prayed for them always. So it was a pretty special thing to get that knock on the door last fall from firefighter Matt Kosak. Thank you, Matt, for all you do for so many, and what you did for the Julia Greeley Home! 

Join us for Colorado Gives Day Dec. 6!

TO ALL OUR PRESENT AND FUTURE FRIENDS OF JULIA'S, 

    Your support helps formerly homeless women transform their lives!   In our first three years, Julia’s has helped more than a dozen women find self sufficiency and a new life purpose. We are successfully fighting back against the idea that an individual who encounters homelessness will probably never get out of it. Not true! 

    Now we need your help in a special way. I want to ask you to contribute to our mission through Colorado Gives Day. This is our first year participating in this powerful statewide program. Donations are welcomed every day of the year, but the special “kickoff” day is Tuesday, Dec. 6. 

    You can donate several ways. If you can make a donation now, use our Colorado Gives Donate button, top right. (You can always use our own Donate button, same place.) Of course you can always send your gift to 3613 Wyandot St., Denver, CO 80211.

    We really need your help. We have expanded our program from 4 to 10 residents in our rented residence, and now we are looking to purchase our first home. Our growth plan calls for a doubling of operating expenses to expand our resources to serve more women, and just as important, to begin the complex task of developing a capital campaign.

    Whatever you can contribute helps immeasurably. For example, a monthly gift of, say, $10 or $25 is a little like breathing — one breath may seem small, but taking one breath after another, just like sending a small monthly gift, means life itself!   A gift of $250 rescues a woman from the violence of the street for a month. A gift of $1,500 gives her 6 months of job training, life skills and spiritual support to transform her life and become independent. A confident woman is good for families and for society, and with your help and our program, she can succeed.

    For more ways to give to Julia’s, visit ColoradoGives.org, enter our name, Julia Greeley Home, and learn more about our funding needs. 

    In coming weeks we will be sharing more from our residents and graduates. Many of them are eager to talk about what they have overcome to discover peace and self sufficiency.  For now, please help us continue this work! The truth is, in this harsh world, homelessness can happen to anybody. Our residents are all somebody’s mom, sister, cousin, neighbor or friend.  

Honoring women and mothers

To me May is the most beautiful of all the months of the year.  It is spring - finally - and that symbolizes the return of life. So many of us celebrate Mother’s Day, and think of ourown mothers, who protected each one of us from the moment of our conception so we could enjoy life in this world. And of course, it is the month of Our Lady, Mary, the Mother of Jesus. The month has been documented as “Mary’s month” since the 13th century, according to church histories. 

So for 700 years or more people have been making the connection between the month of new life, new beginnings, and motherhood, and made it the month to especially honor Our Lady too.  That’s quite a legacy. 

Each of us has a legacy too, a legacy of family. I think of our Julia residents during this month, and all women who have been homeless and alone. They all have mothers, and many are mothers themselves. I have heard so many stories from women about growing up, and the impact of their parents on their lives. With Mother’s Day so much in this month’s advertising and with people everywhere around us making plans to visit their mothers and their families, it grieves me to know that this month often hurts people who have painful memories about their mothers. It is a great heartache. 

This month is also a special reminder of the importance of women and their gift of being a mother--not just a physical mother but a psychological, emotional, and spiritual mother. All women have this gift and ability in them. We have many sayings that speak to the power of women and mothers in our society: I am sure you have heard the phrase "As the women goes , so goes the nation." And, "the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world."  Then of course there is the saying about the family, “When Mom is happy, then everybody’s happy!” No matter how you say it, the power of a woman to change things, whether it’s in her family or ultimately throughout society, is great.

Here at Julia's we believe there is no woman who cannot achieve her goals and become fully alive to her future, if she wants to and will work at it---not matter how rough her past. But she can only do this with God's help. Plus, our Catholic Christian faith also emphasizes an incomparable extra gift that God has offered the world -- and that is the love of a very special woman, the Mother of Jesus! It doesn’t matter what a woman's religion is, or where she is spiritually, the Mother of Jesus has a special love for her. That includes every women, especially the most helpless and heartbroken.  For the woman whose mother has abandoned her, the Mother of Jesus will replace her.   We here at Julia's dedicate this month to the Blessed Virgin Mary and beg her intercession for every one of her daughters at Julia's.

God bless you all,

Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F. M. Cap

The meaning of Mercy

I know that all the friends and volunteers of Julia's are not Catholic.  But being a Catholic priest has inspired me with some thoughts which I would like to share with all of my friends, both Catholics and all others.

Pope Francis announced a "Holy Year of Mercy" which began on Dec. 8, 2015 and will end on Nov. 20, 2016. What a magnificent concept in light of our work with the Julia Greeley Home!  When I see someone reach out to the hundreds of homeless and defenseless, unaccompanied women in shelters or standing on the street corners, I give thanks to God for allowing His love to shine so brilliantly through us as frail human beings. Few actions shine so brilliantly in the dark corners of crushed lives as an act of "mercy."    

When I first thought of this Holy Year of Mercy in relation to our women at the Julia Greeley Home, I imagined women crying out to God to rescue them from the streets, and a generous God responding by sending them to Julia’s, where their needs are satisfied through our compassion, and by our generous donors who support us. Hopefully, this image will come true for a number of Julia's women during this Holy Year of Mercy. 

Then I realized that "mercy" is not just about receiving mercy, it is also about "showing mercy." 

In other words, this Holy Year of Mercy isn’t just about the women who come to the Julia Greeley Home, it’s also about the many good and generous people who make the Julia Greeley Home possible. But, thinking about it, I’m not sure people understand how important this act of showing mercy to the poor is, especially to the very source of Mercy, Jesus Christ himself! However, we can find our pretty easily the ultimate importance Christ placed on mercy --- that is, the mercy each of us shows to one another --- by what He said about it, as recorded in Scripture. 

Jesus told us straight out that it is only by showing mercy that we can obtain mercy from God for ourselves. He said that God will not give to us what we refuse to give to others. Jesus spoke very clearly and firmly about this. We hear these words so often sometimes we tend to slide over them and not really listen. But think what Jesus is really saying here, as recorded by the apostle Matthew in chapter 25:31-46:  "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat ( or you did not give me something to eat), I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." And we will say: "When did we see you a stranger and invite you in (or not invite you in), or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" And God the Judge will say:  "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Then Jesus talks about what will happen to the cold hearted, and those who turn their backs on others; they will be herded together like goats, and banished from happiness forever. In other words, our compassion and mercy towards others determines our own destiny --- will we go to eternal happiness or eternal punishment? The question is serious and very real.

Thus, the Holy Year of Mercy is a special opportunity for people to show mercy to our poor homeless women. They need your help -- they need our help! We know there are so many more women on the streets; currently, we at the Julia Greeley Homehave room for eight of them. We rejoice that those eight women are safe and refocusing their lives; the success of each individual is of incalculable importance. Yet it breaks my heart to think that there are so many more, literally hundreds of women just in our own Denver metro area, who are alone, afraid, and at risk in our violent society, and at this moment we can help only a small number of them. 

So we want to do more. Please pray for us, that we can continue to grow and expand our mission. This spring, in this Year of Mercy, we will be reaching out as never before to ask for your help, both to volunteers, who give so inspiringly of their time and talents to Julia’s residents, and to our donors, who “keep the lights on,” and who we hope and pray will be be inspired to help us grow and secure a larger home. 

For me, it’s inspiring to think that those who generously join our mission at the Julia Greeley Home as volunteers and as donors are fulfilling Christ’s words all at once -- in other words, when you help us in any capacity, you are feeding the hungry, giving water to the thirsty, clothing those who have inadequate clothing, and inviting in the stranger, every time a new resident comes to Julia’s. You make all this possible; and, as Christ tells us, you are making your own eternal happiness possible too.

 

'Old Julia:' Celebrating a Heroic Life

Imagine a young woman born into slavery 150 years ago. She’s abused so much that she loses her eye and full use of one leg. When our country comes to its senses after the Civil War and recognizes her innate freedom and dignity as a human being, this young woman thinks to herself, “I hurt, and I can’t see well, and I know many people won't accept me because I am black, but I’m going to take this chance and make something of myself.” 

We know Julia Greeley must have thought something like this, because of what she did: She left Missouri and came to Denver to conquer life in spite of the huge obstacles she still faced -- including the obstacle of forgiving her enemies. (We know she must have forgiven her enemies because the way she conducted her life showed that there wasn’t a bitter bone in her body.)

I’m marveling a lot over Julia Greeley right now because -- well, what a 2016 she's had so far!

In January this poor housekeeper from Denver known in her day as “Old Julia” was named Denver’s Model of Mercy, as part of Pope Francis’s Year of Mercy. In February, a packed bus tour followed the historic paths she trudged every day bringing food, clothes and encouragement to other poor people. The tour was sponsored by the Julia Greeley Guild (yes, “Old Julia” even has her own guild today) and she is the subject of a fascinating biography written by my Capuchin brother, Father Blaine Burkey, O.F.M.Cap.

Now it's March, and of course, Julia Greeley continues to inspire the Julia Greeley Home, which had been on my heart as a great need for many years, and which finally opened in 2013 for today’s women who, like Julia, are poor, and have been traumatized and abused by life. 

The mysterious thing about Julia Greeley is, unlike most famous people, her fame doesn't fade with time, it continues to grow. We can only wonder what it means. We know that more and more people are asking today whether the woman known as “Old Julia” will someday also be known as “Saint Julia.” We don’t know. Whether or not that happens, she has already done something that she never could have guessed -- she's inspiring people a century after her death. It's said Julia loved to laugh, and we can only think she would have laughed to think that, someday, she would be "famous" just because she got up every day, determined to do what she could to love others.  

What in the world is Love?

The world calls this the month of “love.” Poor St. Valentine! His name has become an excuse for everything but true love. People spend money on candy, flowers, high-end dining -- all the expensive toys and pursuits that mask the real meaning of love. On an even deeper and more serious level, people use the idea of “love” to exploit each other sexually, which always ends in either heartbreak or hardness of heart.

Here’s a little information I found on the history of the “real” St. Valentine (although the details are a little murky.) According to Father Frank O'Gara of Whitefriars Street Church in Dublin, Ireland, Valentine was a Catholic priest who lived in Rome during the 3rd century. It was a time of widespread promiscuity and "easy sex" -- much like today. The pagan Emperor Claudius was forbidding young Catholics to marry because he thought unmarried men made better soldiers if they didn’t have a family to worry about. Valentine refused to accept this, and secretly arranged to have young Catholics married. Well, his views on marriage got him in trouble with the government -- and he was beheaded.

    The martyr Valentine made a stand for true love. Real love is patient and kind, not arrogant or selfish or exploitive. Somebody told me once that their favorite definition of love was, “Someone who gets up in the middle of the night to bring their spouse a glass of water.” It means putting the other person first.

Here’s a small but true story that puts love in perspective. A young couple eagerly awaited their wedding day and the happiness of their first night together. (This was before today’s era, when so many people have mixed up the proper order of marriage and sex.) But that evening, the young groom was overcome by a sudden attack of flu. It was so sudden and violent that it could have felled an army. Instead of romance, the young bride learned what it was to be a nurse and a comforter. Years later, the bride recalled:

“At the time, all we could think was what a disastrous way to start our married life together,” she said. “But later we saw God’s wisdom. He was teaching us the meaning of true love. My husband was humbled by sickness and I was humbled by having to become his servant. So much for being the center of attention a few hours before, as a gorgeous bride! Instead, we were blessed right away in our married life because we had to learn the meaning of selflessness, compassion and patience. To learn those things first, made all the joys of married life even sweeter.”

That couple was blessed to get their priorities straight, right from the beginning. But those qualities of true love, patience and kindness aren’t only found in married love. Every person on earth deserves love, because God loved that person from the beginning. He established the family unit as the first place where a human being should see that love reflected on earth. That’s why, at the Julia Greeley Home, women who have been alone and homeless are welcomed into a family-style home. Just like a family, it’s rambunctious at times, but hopefully grounded in mutual respect and patience, which are among the first fruits of love. 

At Julia’s, we also refer a lot to a woman’s dignity. That’s another aspect of true love which gets lost in today’s world. By “dignity” we mean that when a person recognizes that she is worthy of being loved by God and by others, her whole sense of self worth rises -- not with pride, but with a quiet confidence.

I’ll be praying this month that everyone who reads this will experience, in some way, the meaning of true love. Be on the lookout for it!

 

 

 

The path to 2016: Happy New Year!

If you're like me, you're looking forward to 2016, but also taking a last look at the year we’ve left behind. “Looking back” can be an inspirational thing to do, because for a person of faith, everything that happens is worthwhile, both victories and challenges. When you have faith in God, don't worry about what went well or what seemed to go badly, because in the end, God works out everything for the good. 

That’s what we found this year at the Julia Greeley Home. Yes, we had to hold on tight through some twists and turns (I’ll explain in a minute), but the important thing is we begin our new year in a house filled with motivated women who are healing from the effects of homelessness, reclaiming their dignity, becoming cheerful and hopeful again, and learning the skills to become self sufficient in the world. That’s what our mission is about.

Now let me tell you about our twists and turns and the lessons we learned. Maybe some of these lessons will fit for your life, too. 

2015 opens a new path  - but to where? 

We began 2015 hanging on a big question mark. We had to move out of our original home to a new, larger space. But where? Last January, we had no idea. But we kept moving forward, one day at a time, praying for guidance. During that time, our former director, Lynn Reid, who was busy with her own new plans, generously kept Julia’s program thriving at our original home while we searched. 

I put everything in the hands of St. Joseph, who has never disappointed me. After all, God entrusted Joseph with protecting and arranging everything for Mary and the child Jesus. But that didn’t mean their lives were easy. Imagine what it was like for Joseph, wondering if he should “divorce” Mary bcause of her “unplanned pregnancy”!  He probably thought his future was “over,” when it was just beginning. Of course, now we know “the rest of the story,” that Joseph played a central role in the mystery of salvation. But Joseph didn’t know that -- he had to figure out everything just like we do, one day after another, trusting God without knowing the outcome. 

It’s been the same for us at the Julia Greeley Home. Only later did we see how St Joseph, God’s “right hand man,” was arranging things behind the scenes. Does today -- or the new year -- look uncertain to you? My best advice is, don’t worry, just get up every day, do your best, and pray. God will not let you down.

Letting God work it out

For example, In the spring we thought we had accomplished our major goal, to find a new director and a new home where we could expand and grow. We began making plans to move. Then, suddenly, our new director had to decline the responsibility for personal reasons. Now what?! Three months of planning had unraveled in a day. If this happens to you, just remember: When God has a work He wants you to do, be sure you will be tested. God wants to know if you will persist and endure through hardship. Anyone who gives up at the first disappointment -- or even the second or third -- loses the opportunity to experience the great rescue plan God is working out for those who trust Him. 

We were back in full househunting mode when, one day in June, I was touring a location with a group of strangers. One of them was Leslie Collins-Pottebaum, who for over 30 years has run Shannon’s Hope, a home for pregnant women. Her home, built as a former residential facility, is very large. As we talked, we both recogized that God was presenting us each with an opportunity. We recognized that for this next step on our journey, we were meant to take it together. Since then we have seen how our “shared community” has helped each of our programs to grow. Here’s the lesson: many times, God works things out in stages, not all at once. It’s not up to us (His students) to set the curriculum. God is the teacher, so let Him work out the lesson plans in His own good time. 

2016: A new year to grow and serve

And that’s where we are at the start of 2016 -- growing, learning and grateful for the blessings that have led us to this point. Since Julia’s began sharing our large home with Shannon’s Hope in August, we have grown in patience and the art of “abiding with one another.” Our mission statements are in harmony -- each of our programs is dedicated to promoting a woman’s dignity and inspiring her to move toward independence and self sufficiency. In that spirit, Leslie and her experienced team are implementing Julia’s program with authority. 

Best of all, we have watched Julia’s residents pitch into the life of a large family and begin to heal from the cycle of homelessness and alienation. The need is great. Despite many homeless programs and awareness, there are very few programs for the hundreds of women in the Denver area who are homeless and alone, without family support. We know the numbers are high (maybe as high as 800 women on a given night, with far fewer available beds) because of surveys done annually through the Metro Denver Homeless Initiative, and also from what we hear anecdotally through our own network of social services agencies.

That’s why we want 2016 to be the year when the Julia Greeley Home keeps growing and moving forward, so we can welcome even more women into our program. We know God doesn’t intend to abandon the most vulnerable among us. All He asks is our trust and willingness to work, and He will do the rest.

We are ready.

 

Some thoughts on 'getting it right'

We’ve all heard the jokes about families that get together once a year at holiday time, and all they do is fight. Well, maybe that’s more honest than the old-style fairytales that make the holidays out to be a never-never land, where every family member is a candidate for sainthood!

The the fact is, life is imperfect, yet most of us still would take the imperfections of other people rather than the loneliness of being without anyone to love and cherish.  I guess that’s why I really like the photo on our home page, which was taken at Thanksgiving. It shows women at our shared community, staff and residents, experiencing the joy of a Thanksgiving meal. Yes, in our imperfect world, it’s still possible! And this is where the Julia Greeley Home comes in.

Our mission is to become the family support for the woman who is alone, abandoned or estranged from her own family, and forced by circumstances into homelessness. 

People are amazed when I tell them that there are hundreds of women today, right in the Denver area, who have education, talents, a career history, and yes, a past family life and who today are homeless! The trigger might be anything -- drugs or alcohol addictions, death of a spouse, illness, or serious financial problems. Economists say that many, if not most Americans are living a few paychecks away from being broke.

The fact is, there are few places for the homeless woman who is alone. Most programs are designed for men, or for women with children.

Julia’s is different. Our goal is to be the safe, secure place where each woman gets the personal time to examine what led her into homelessness so she can regain her focus on life -- by focusing on herself. It’s a time of self examination, so she can concentrate on becoming a woman of independence and good judgment. 

That means we are not a home for a woman and her children. When she’s living with her children, even on a part-time basis, a woman’s natural tendency is to “settle in” and concentrate on her children -- that’s natural. And it’s natural to get questions like, “Can I bring my children overnight?” “Can they come for dinner on weekends?” because presently we share our living space in a large home with Shannon’s Hope, a seasoned ministry of 30-plus years which is for pregnant women who sometimes have small children. 

 Julia’s is for the woman who is at a different place in life. And maybe this is where “life is imperfect” comes in. It may not be easy to see other women’s children every day and not your own, but Julia’s women have regular personal time when they can visit their children off campus, and we encourage those appropriate visitations. 

Can children join their mothers at Julia’s at a special occasion like Christmas dinner? Yes. But the mission of the Julia Greeley Home is to be that family for the women who has ended up alone for a reason. She needs the time to find out why, to have the time to examine her own life, so she can go back into the world as soon as possible. Then she can rebuild her own family life as the strong, self sufficient woman (and often a mother) that she is meant to be. 

Of course, only one family on earth got it completely “right” -- and that’s the Holy Family of Nazareth. They show by example that “family” doesn’t have to be another word for dissension and division. The values of the Holy Family begin with peace -- both in the home and with oneself. So, especially at this Christmas season, I am praying that each woman at Julia’s is blessed with peace, so she may return to a life of self sufficiency and become a light to her own family.

Discoveries around a lunch table

November 2015

To All Friends of Julia’s, 

What is family? Where does it exist? What is its purpose and meaning? We have heard a lot of talk about the family and its God-given nature, thanks to the recent Catholic Synod called by Pope Francis. 

Almost by accident, I discovered another expression of the family and how it fits into God’s love and plan for the human race.

Since the beginning of October I have been meeting on Tuesdays for lunch and conversation with the women of the Julia Greeley Home. Because we are sharing a beautiful residential facility with another community, Shannon’s Hope, our lunch table is a packed and lively place! 

Around that lunch table I continue to learn new things about God’s love, even thoughI have been a priest for many years, and you’d think I would have seen it all, having served through the years in many capacities as teacher, prison chaplain and spiritual counselor. 

Yet no amount of experience takes away the brand new experience of being around the healing power of a special kind of family. That’s what we have around that lunch table on Tuesdays. 

In the safety of this beautiful home, our Julia’s women are moving forward with their plans and dreams, despite having crushing past disappointments that sent them into homelessnes before they came to us. 

At our most recent lunch one of our residents has big news of receiving an award for her good work at her new place of employment (we’ll be posting her story shortly); and another was about to dash off to a meeting with her caseworker to plan her next step toward independence. (We are being protective of our residents’ names for their privacy).

When the caseworker appeared with a cheery greeting, she got a round of greetings, and everybody asked that she join us for lunch sometime .... “OK, done deal!“ she said. It was a beautiful moment of a special kind of family togetherness.

 Meanwhile, the Shannon’s Hope ladies, who are pregnant and some with small children, can finally make their plans in a setting where their children are safe and they are loved. That they have found peace is evident in the good behavior of these tots and the contentment on the faces of their mothers.

So, what did I see around the lunch table? Family. Not a traditional family, to be sure, but still an expression of God’s love and His desire that we all live together in peace and realize the dignity and purpose that He has for each individual.

Pope Francis speaks a lot about the family, even in his off-the-cuff comments. Here’s something he’s said recently that I think fits for a family like Julia’s -- one that was drawn together out of past brokenness, but is now healing again: 

“Families are not a problem, they are first and foremost an opportunity. An opportunity which we have to care for, protect and support. That is a way of saying that they are a blessing ...  And a family is truly a family when it is able to open its arms and receive all of this love.”

    We are putting this love into action at the Julia Greeley Home and Shannon’s Hope, and it is right there, for all to see, around our lunch table!  More  >

---Father Regis

Inspiring words about family

October 2015

Hello to all Friends of Julia’s,

All the world, it seems, is interested in the Synod on the Family which is underway in Rome this week. That includes us, at Julia’s! We are modeled on a family, and that’s why we are inspired by the words of Pope Francis as he opened the Synod:

    “Every family is always a light, however faint, amid the darkness of this world ...  In a family, we are formed by the memory of past generations and we put down roots which enable us to go far. The family is a place of discernment, where we learn to recognise God’s plan for our lives and to embrace it with trust ... a place where we learn to step out of ourselves and accept others, to forgive and to be forgiven”.

     These beautiful ideas reflect what we are about at Julia’s. Each woman who joins us has already been shaped somehow by a family. Some women may have been broken, in body or heart, by “past generations” of family; others bring with them deep family roots which supported them despite recent homelessness. Each woman’s story is different, but there are hurts to be healed, and we know no better model to do that by sharing the best of what a family can be, "light in the darkness."

As in every good family, each woman who comes to Julia’s is supported by others, yet she keeps her individuality. That’s why we can say Julia’s gladly welcomes everyone, of every faith or none at all. We respect each woman’s beliefs and only ask that, because we are a family, each woman must really want to be with us. If she does, she and her fellow residents join in seeking a deeper understanding of their dignity as women and as human beings, which we believe has a spiritual foundation in our Christian faith. From there, we can begin “to step out of ourselves,” as Pope Francis says, and begin to “recognize God’s plan for our lives and embrace it with trust.”

    Like our patron, Julia Greeley, we want to be “a light, however faint, amid the darkness of this world.” 

Pope's Words Reflect Julia's Mission

September 20, 2015

Hello to all Friends of Julia’s,

We are gratified to be able to welcome more women into Julia’s program! 

Pope Francis is coming to America this week, and I want to share something he said recently about the misery of living without a home, literally on the street:

“Street children and street women are not numbers, or 'packets' to be traded; they are human beings, each with his or her own name and face, each with a God-given identity”.”

We’re not using the term “on the street” in the colloquial sense which impugns a person’s moral dignity. We are talking about the sad situation that many women face when they suddenly lose their breadwinner, their financial stability, or find themselves in the middle of a devastating emotional blow. 

The fact is, women face greater dangers than men when living in a homeless situation because of their special vulnerability to sexual predators and violence. 

As the Pope said: “No one can remain unmoved before the pressing need to safeguard the dignity of women, threatened by cultural and economic factors.”

He’s talking about Julia’s women! As Pope Francis put it, each woman has her own “God-given identity.” At Julia’s, we are honored to serve each woman individually, because each woman has her own heartbreak, her own recovery, her own goals, and her own way of returning to self sufficiency. We are here to help point the way.

 

Julia's re-opens and we resume our mission

August, 2015

Hello to All Friends of Julia’s,

As you probably know the Julia Greeley Home has been on hiatus. Sometimes people joke that the word “hiatus”  is code for “We’re not sure we’re coming back,” but for us, that was never in doubt. 

I am happy to announce that on August 15 we officially re-opened Julia’s program in metro Denver. We moved to a large residential-sized home which we are sharing with a great organization, Shannon’s Hope, Inc., which welcomes women in crisis pregnancies. We have already begun to interview women interested in joining the program …

Julia's To Re-Open in August

August, 2015

Hello to All Friends of Julia’s,

As you probably know the Julia Greeley Home has been on hiatus. Sometimes people joke that the word “hiatus”  is code for “We’re not sure we’re coming back,” but for us, that was never in doubt.  

I am happy to announce that this August we officially re-open Julia’s program in metro Denver. We are moving into a large residential-sized home which we will share with a great organization, Shannon’s Hope, Inc., which welcomes women in crisis pregnancies. 

This home is really beautiful, and large enough to operate our two programs independently, though we plan to share some staff and program materials. In the next days and weeks we will be telling you more about our new Friends at Shannon’s Hope. 

We will also be reaching out to our volunteers who over the past six months offered their talents and time to help us with our mission: to give Julia’s women the job and life skills and spiritual support to recover their dignity and become self sufficient.

Other volunteers and donors have already stepped forward to contribute supplies and household items. We know there are many more of you who are waiting to find out what you can do to help us, and we will let you know as soon as we get settled in.

Finally, for the many people who ask, we are still pursuing a permanent campus in the Denver area. There are many “moving parts” to get into sync and we keep working away, confident that all will work out for the best. I’m not worried. I have put the Julia Greeley mission in the hands of St. Joseph, who was the best protector and guide possible for Jesus and His Mother, and it’s inspirational to see how he has led the Julia Greeley Home from our beginnings, to our exciting re-opening in August, and all the way through our hiatus, and now into the future!

More soon, so please keep checking back, our email is there for your questions and ideas:juliagreeleyweb@gmail.com . And when the time and place is right for you to donate, we hope you will consider the Julia Greeley Home. We appreciate your support of all kinds, including your time, ideas and expertise. Most of all, please keep us in your prayers, and I am keeping you in mine,

Sincerely,

Father Regis Scanlon O.F.M.Cap, Founder and president, Julia Greeley Home, Inc. 

OUR PLANS CHANGE, OUR MISSION DOESN’T

Hello to all our Friends of Julia’s!

Here’s what’s going on: God had different plans for us than we thought. Last weekend our new house director bowed out for family and personal reasons, which means we are actively looking for a replacement home and an equally able and qualified new director who can continue the program begun in August 2013 in Arvada. We are inspired by the significant numbers of women who have gone on to new lives of independence and self-sufficiency, and we want to keep the momentum going.

At the same time, a large, beautiful property in the Denver area which we have been pursuing for several years came up for sale this May. This is an exciting opportunity for Julia’s, but of course, there are many moving parts necessary to accomplish this, and so we are asking most urgently for your prayers and your support. As we move forward, we need your contributions to keep Julia’s program thriving, and all else that God has in mind for Julia’s, including the possibility of this beautiful new home!

That’s why I would be most grateful for your support today. You can use our “Donate” button on our home page at juliagreeleyhome.org or send a check to Julia Greeley Home Inc., 3613 Wyandot St., Denver, CO 80211.

Here’s some more details about this “dream home.” This is a large property where we could accommodate more than 20 women at a time. They would live in peace and security and have the time to learn the skills of self-sufficiency and independence. We would be able to hold regular seminars and classes and invite motivational speakers. Perhaps we could even share space with another organization like our own, which is  dedicated to helping women rediscover their purpose and dignity in life.

In short, this property reflects the mission I set for Julia’s many years ago. Through my work as a priest and in prison ministry, I discovered to my sadness that many women get dragged into homelessness by trauma, such as illness, loss of income, estrangement from family, or death of a spouse. The reasons are many, but society ignores them. Why? Because these women are alone, so they don’t fit in the common homeless categories -- men, families, and women with children. If they’re lucky, they sleep on mats and get a few weeks to live in a shelter. (In fact, recently Catholic Charities of Denver found it necessary to add overflow space to their night shelter for more than 100 women. The women are sleeping on 7‘ x 3’ mats.)

Thanks to the Julia Greeley Home, women now have the opportunity to live in a family-style home, with spiritual support and all the time necessary to heal. Our program works. Women are answering the challenge and rebuilding their lives!

As a priest, I am so grateful to God for allowing me to help Him help them.

Personal News and  a Prayer

And that brings me to my personal news: I have prostate cancer, but they tell me I won’t die from it. Surgery is scheduled for June 2nd.

But I see this diagnosis as another opportunity. I am asking God to intervene in my health through the intercession of Julia Greeley, our patron, who has been acknowledged by many since her death in 1918 as having great personal holiness, and worthy of possible canonization. A miracle is needed to advance the canonical process.

So I’m asking that everybody who reads this letter also pray the Julia Greeley prayer (below). We’ve been praying this prayer for a long time, and now we’re adding a cure of my cancer through the intercession of Julia Greeley. I believe that my full return to health would be an encouragement from God to continue our work, including our goal to buy a property well suited to our future.

So I hope you will say this prayer for the continuation of Julia’s great work, wherever it will be! I believe that the discomfort we are going through now is working toward a beautiful purpose. If you will help us along the way, I will be very grateful.

Look for more updates from me, as they happen. Till then you are in my prayers.

 

Father Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap.

 

THE JULIA GREELEY PRAYER

Dear Julia Greeley, friend of the homeless, pray for us to Jesus, who suffered so much and for our sake had nowhere to lay His head.  Julia, devoted servant of the Sacred Heart, implore the powerful intercession of our Blessed Mother and ask her help in all our needs, especially the needs of those who have no one to pray for them.  Julia, gentle champion of the lonely and powerless, we beg you to ask for the protection and guidance of dear St. Joseph, guardian of the Holy Family. 

Please pray, dear Julia, for our urgent request, that the Eternal God, defender of the weak, will grant us the blessing of a shelter for all single homeless women in the Denver area, that they may find a suitable refuge in keeping with their human and moral dignity.  I also ask your special intercession to obtain (mention your intention) a complete cure from cancer for Father Regis Scanlon.

 

(Permission for use in non-liturgical gatherings granted by the Most Rev. James D. Conley,  S.T.L. , former Apostolic Administrator, Archdiocese of Denver)

 

 (Please say an Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, for this intention).