Msgr. George Bardowell
We recognize the stewardship of our priests who have dedicated their lives in service to God. Let us get to know them better, understand them and open ourselves to hearing the Word of God through them.
Monsignor Ronald George Bardowell, still affectionately known as Father George, was born October 1, 1929 at Jubilee Hospital also known as Victoria Maternity Hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. He was the first born of Anthony Michael Bardowell and Imogene Bardowell nee Erskine of Panama. Four sisters and three brothers followed; Elaine, Pauline, Basil (deceased), Alma, Michael, Andrea and Gladstone. Msgr George’s paternal grandfather was one of three brothers who migrated from Lebanon, and his maternal grandfather was a Panamanian who worked as an engineer on the Panama Canal. His maternal grandmother was half Irish and half Norwegian and his paternal grandmother was Jewish from Martinique.
Msgr. George grew up in Hannah Town in West Kingston. He received his early education at Ms. Baptiste Pre-School, St. Ann’s Infant School, St. Ann’s Primary School and St. Aloysius Primary School. His secondary education was received at St. George’s College. He worked at Issa Brothers, a general store located in Kingston, Jamaica, first in the wholesale haberdashery department then in the parts department also known as “motor sales”. Msgr George was also a sportsman. He played table tennis for the St. Ann’s Catholic Club, football and cricket for the St. George’s Old Boys Association, and later, played all three sports at the seminary in England.
The decision to become a priest had its foundation in his early years when an elderly lady in his neighbourhood would gather the children and teach them catechism. He would walk with her to the Cathedral for Mass every morning except on Sundays when he would attend Mass at St. Ann’s with his father. His attendance at Catholic schools also contributed to his decision to become a priest. Another major influence in that decision came from a close female friend who encouraged him to answer the call to vocation. But perhaps his vocational journey began earlier than that. His mother told him that while pregnant with him, there was a time when she felt ill and supported herself by holding on to a church fence. She promised him to God as a priest if he saved both their lives.
Msgr. George entered minor seminary in 1952. He left after two years to become breadwinner for the family, his duty as the eldest son after his father fell ill. The senior Mr. Bardowell subsequently died on August 3, 1961. Msgr. George went back to work at Issa Brothers and after nine years entered the seminary where he studied philosophy. He was one of three seminarians sent to England to pursue studies in Theology at St Joseph’s College in Lancastershire and was ordained sub-deacon there. The three were recalled to Jamaica by their archbishop who wanted to start a major seminary there. Two returned, but Msgr George remained in England. He travelled to the United States of America and stayed with relatives for a short while then returned to Jamaica where he was ordained deacon and assigned to Holy Trinity Cathedral. He went to Barbados at the invitation of Bishop Anthony Dickson where he was ordained priest on October 21, 1971 for the Diocese of Kingston, Jamaica and worked as missionary priest in the diocese of Bridgetown/Kingstown.
His first assignment was in the Southern Grenadines in 1971, travelling by boat to Mayreau for 9.30 a.m. Mass, after having celebrated 7.00 a.m. Mass in Canouan. His day did not finish there, he also travelled to Union Island the same morning for 11.00 a.m. Mass or 3.00 p.m. depending on the circumstances. After eighteen months he returned to Barbados at the request of Bishop Dickson to take charge of the Cathedral there. He was sent to Mesopotamia in St Vincent for two years then back to Barbados. In the late 1970’s he was afforded the opportunity to travel to Canada where he studied Canon Law at St Paul’s University, completed a Bachelors Degree and licentiate in Liturgy and Canon Law and a Masters Degree from Ottawa University in the same subjects. He taught Canon Law for one term in Jamaica and one term in Trinidad and Tobago at different times, our present Bishop Gerard County being one of his students. Upon his return to Barbados, Bishop Dickson appointed him Judicial Vicar for Barbados and St. Vincent. He returned to St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the request of Bishop Robert Rivas and was again assigned to the Southern Grenadines. He is full of interesting and funny stories from his time there and in Barbados and remains close with his former parishioners as evidenced by their calls and support when he fell ill in mid 2018. It is common to hear him referred to as “Uncle George” particularly by the people of the Southern Grenadines.
He was assigned to the Cathedral when Fr. Michael Stewart was preparing to go to Rome to pursue a Doctorate in Scripture. He became Monsignor sometime soon after the turn of the millennium. Msgr. George assisted in every parish and community during his various stints in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and in Barbados.
Included in his major achievements are: founder of the Antilles Canon Law Society and one of three founders of the Castries Province Priests and Deacons Association. He and Charles Best accompanied teams to Grenada and St. Lucia to establish the Cursillo movement in both countries.
He was one of two priests in a special ministry, the other being Fr. Cyril Ross (deceased), who assisted other priests who were facing challenges.
Monsignor George continues to celebrate Mass and hear confessions. He was chief celebrant at Mass for his 90th birthday on October 1, 2019 and hosted an intimate lunch gathering with present and former parishioners, priests, deacons, religious sisters, staff of the Pastoral Centre and Cathedral office. This was followed by Mass and social evening on Friday, October 4th to which everyone was invited. He has seen eight papacies and now resides at the Pastoral Centre in Edinboro having given his entire adult life to God in His earthly kingdom.
This is Msgr. George. His life. His dedication. His stewardship.