Bishop Joseph Neelankavil was born at Laloor, Aranattukara on 19th March 1930 as the second among the seven children to Lazar and Kunjannam. After his school education he joined the CMI Congregation as an aspirant in 1947 at Elthuruth. He was ordained priest on 17 May1960. After his ordination he was appointed Assistant Social Director of the diocese of Trichur. In 1963 he was sent to Rome for Higher Studies and he did the one-year pastoral sociology in the Jesuit Institute - CISIC. He did his doctorate in Canon Law from the Lateran University in Rome on the topic Feast Discipline of the St. Thomas Christians of Malabar. On his return from Rome, he was two years in the minor seminary and for two years taught canon law in the Dharmaram College, Bangalore. In 1974 he was appointed mission superior and thereafter superior and manager of Christ College Irinjalakuda till 1981. The next four years he was in Mumbai as superior of the CMIs who were to take care of the pastoral needs of the Syro-Malabar faithful there. Later while he worked as the General Mission Secretary, in 1987 he was nominated the second bishop of Sagar and was ordained bishop on 22 February 1987. His motto was pro petro et populo - for Peter and People. On reaching the age of 75, he retired from office as Bishop of Sagar in 2006.