The Diocese of Bridgetown, Barbados will now have one of its own as bishop as Pope Francis has appointed Fr Neil Sebastian Scantlebury, 55, to become the first Barbadian to be ordained Catholic bishop.
The announcement was made Monday, December 28 at noon, Vatican City time (7 a.m. local time).
The date of episcopal ordination has already been set: Wednesday, March 17, 2021 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Bridgetown. March 17 is the Feast of St Patrick.
Bishop-elect Scantlebury in an interview carried live on Trinity Television said, “for me being a bishop is all excitement. I am up for the task. I depend on the grace of God and prayers of the people and pull out all the various things I learned over the years.”
He said there was a little nervousness given the “pretty good” stand-in, referring to Archbishop Jason Gordon, who has served as Diocesan Administrator of Bridgetown from 2017. He added, “everyone is looking at you, but by the grace of God [I] will do His will.”
Bishop-elect Scantlebury said he had enjoyed the past 25 “blessed” years of priesthood. He worked in several parishes, his most recent at St Ann’s RC in St Croix, US Virgin Islands (USVI).
“It has been a wonderful journey thus far, and I look forward to the journey ahead of me,” he said. It was during his last year of studies at The University of the West Indies, St Augustine campus, Trinidad that he “started to sense a call for the priesthood”. He was involved in the UWI prayer group. “It was a good time, a spiritual time”, he added.
Bishop-elect Scantlebury has TT roots; his Catholic mother Myma was Trinidadian and his parents were married in Trinidad. He recalled that his father Keith, an Anglican, had always said sons would go with him to the Anglican Church and daughters to the Catholic church. This however, did not happen as his father became Catholic within the first year of the marriage. Scantlebury, and his two older brothers were raised Catholic “and we were very active in the church and I thank God for that.”
The Bishop-elect, in his message to the Diocese and people of Barbados said, “I give you my heart, my love and my prayers and I ask for you to pray for me for God’s holy will to be done”. He said working together they can do great and awesome things for God. He looked forward to being with them and being a “shepherd among the sheep.” Bishop-elect Scantlebury said a date had not yet been fixed for him to travel to Barbados. He however suggested, possibly the end of January or the beginning of February. He has to factor in the COVID-19 quarantine period in Barbados.
Since his ordination to the priesthood, Bishop-elect Scantlebury has served in the Diocese of St Thomas in the USVI.
He was born October 1, 1965, to Deacon Keith and Myma Scantlebury (both deceased). He has two older brothers, Michael, and Joel.
Having finished his primary and secondary education in Barbados, he entered the St Augustine campus, The University of the West Indies, graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He then moved to the US Virgin Islands to teach religion at the Catholic school of Sts Peter and Paul, St Thomas.
He was accepted by then Bishop George V Murry SJ as a candidate for the priesthood, and sent to Mount St Mary’s University, Emmitsburg, Maryland, USA. After earning his Master of Divinity, he was ordained a priest for the Diocese of St Thomas May 18, 1995. Four years later, he obtained the Master of Art in Sacred Scripture at the same university.
He served as Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Church, St Thomas from 1995 to 1997. In August 1997, he was appointed administrator of Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish on the island of St John, and shortly thereafter parish priest, holding the position until August 2003.
In that same month, he became rector of Sts Peter and Paul Cathedral, St Thomas. Six years later, 2009, he returned to Holy Family Church becoming its parish priest and in 2020, was appointed parish priest of St Ann’s Parish, St Croix.
During his 25 years as a priest, Bishop-elect Scantlebury has served the Diocese of St Thomas as Chancellor, Consultor, member of the Administrative Board of Catholic Charities, member of the Administrative Board for Child Protection, and member of the teaching faculty of Sts Peter and Paul Catholic School.
The full interview with Bishop-elect Scantlebury can be viewed here.