Bishop Joseph Pastor Neelankavil, C.MI. was born at Aranatattukara in Thrissur District (Kerala), on 19 March 1930, feast of St. Joseph, his heavenly patron. His parents were Lazar Neelankavil and Kunjanam Palathingal. They were blessed with seven children, 3 boys and 4 girls. Joseph was educated in the local church school. Later he joined the Carmelites and his two sisters entered the Franciscan Clarist Congregation. He continued his studies in St. Aloysius School, Elthuruth, run by the Carmelite Fathers. On 15 October 1950 he received the religious habit in the Chapel of St. Theresa’s Monastery, at Ampazhakad. It was here that he assumed the new name ‘Pastor’. On 15 October 1951 he made his First Profession. He had his ecclesiastical studies of humanities in Mannanam, Kunammavu and Chethipuzha. He studied Philosophy in the Papal Atheneum at Pune, where he obtained Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy. From 1957 to 1960 he studied theology at Dharmaram College, Bangalore.
On 17 May 1960 he was ordained priest in the Dharmaram Chapel by Joseph Cardinal Parekkattil. His first assignment after ordination was as Assistant Director of Social Apostolate in the present Archdiocese of Thrissur. He was also the Director of Catholic Labour Association. In 1963, he was sent to Rome by his superiors for higher studies in pastoral Sociology and Canon Law. He has a diploma in Pastoral Sociology from the Institute of Sociology, Rome and Doctorate in Canon Law from the Lateran University. He speaks English, Malayalam and Hindi, German, Italian and Latin. While he was the General Mission Councilor, he was chosen by Pope John Paul II to succeed Bishop Clemens Thottungal, CMI. He was ordained Bishop of Sagar on 22 February 1987, feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle and took the motto “For Peter and People”. He served the diocese for nineteen years. After his retirement he went to live in Sagar Mission Home, Kuttur, Trichur Dt., Kerala. Called to Eternal rest on 17th February 2021.