How to baptize a baby. How to keep a communal kitchen clean. How to write a homily so the parishioners don't fall asleep.

Those are just a few of the important lessons 2012 Olentangy High School graduate Michael Fulton learned at the Pontifical College Josephinum over the past eight years as he has studied to become a priest in the Catholic church.

Of course, he delved into weighty topics, as well, first earning a bachelor's degree in philosophy and humanities; he anticipates he'll complete his studies for a master's degree in theology in May, after which he will present himself to the Catholic Diocese of Columbus for ordination as a priest.

"It's a great honor to be here (at the Catholic seminary), but after eight years, I'm ready for what's next," Fulton said.

What's next is a career and life of service in parish ministry -- a call Fulton first felt about 10 years ago as a high school student.

He described that call in a May 2012 story in ThisWeek Olentangy Valley News, written when he was a high school senior.

"I couldn't stop thinking about it," he said then.

Now, while his call remains the same, his understanding of it has deepened, he said.

"This is a house of formation, full of imperfect guys praying and listening to God's voice," he said.

"For me, I'm lucky to have discerned that I'm called to be a priest," Fulton said. "The reasons are the same as when I first felt called, but I understand and can articulate it better now."

Mary Fulton, Michael's mother, said she and his father, Brian, never hoped for their son to become a priest -- "but since he first told us, he's determined to stay the course," she said.

"That's up to God in the end," she said. "As a parent, what you want is for your kids to do what they were created for and for them to be happy."

The Josephinum, on U.S. Route 23 just north of Interstate 270, is the only pontifical seminary in the United States.

Fulton's parents moved back to Colorado, where Michael was born, about two years after he started seminary. He opted to stay at the Josephinum and to keep his placement through the Diocese of Columbus.

"I just felt called to stay in Columbus. This is where I felt my call," Michael Fulton said.

He hasn't been without a sense of home, though. Since September, his studies have included a placement at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Sunbury -- the church his family attended while he was growing up.

"I've known him since before he entered seminary," said the Rev. Paul Noble, pastor at St. John Neumann. "He was pretty convinced of his calling. We've watched him grow and mature and it's been impressive. He has a genuine concern for people."

The topic of serving people is a common one in conversation with Fulton. Although parish ministry comes with many duties and responsibilities, he said, it's taking care of people that binds them all together.

He's been doing some preaching at St. John Neumann and said he has enjoyed the experience.

"I love it," he said. "It's one of the best things, to have studied and learned and be able to share that with people."

Fulton said he already has a wedding under his belt, too.

"I approach it all with great reverence," he said. "That responsibility, maybe no one ever really feels ready for it. I'll be learning still even in my early years as a priest."

The Rev. Louis Iasiello, a professor at the Josephinum, said one of the great blessings of being on staff at a seminary is the joy of watching a young person grow into an adult and follow their dreams.

"It is heartwarming for a priest of 45 years to witness a seminarian like Michael take his final steps in priestly formation and prepare himself to present himself to his bishop for priestly ordination."

His mother said she and her husband are both proud, but more than anything, they're hopeful.

"The church has seen some rough times in recent years, and we are thankful for all of the young men who want to be a part of the rebuilding and renewal of the church," she said.

After graduation, Fulton will go through the process of ordination through the diocese, after which Bishop Robert Brennan will place Fulton in a position with a church in the diocese.

"I'll go wherever he sends me," Fulton said.

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