When Deacon Andy Bulso was a student at Pope John Paul II High School, he, like so many teens in the Diocese of Nashville, made a SEARCH retreat. It was there that his vocation to the priesthood, which had been lingering in his mind for a while, received a big jolt.
Father Mark Beckman was giving a talk on vocations when he stopped and said, “If any of you are thinking about the priesthood, I want you to know it’s a wonderful life,” Deacon Bulso recalled. “I felt like I was the only person in the room. It was one of the big moments I really experienced a call.”
He will answer that call in full when he and four other seminarians for the Diocese of Nashville will be ordained to the priesthood at 10:30 a.m. Friday, June 12, at the Cathedral of the Incarnation.
Bulso grew up in Nashville and attended Overbrook School and Montgomery Bell Academy for one year before transferring to JPII when it opened in the fall of 2002.
After graduation from JPII in 2005 as part of the school’s first graduating class and as the school’s first valedictorian, he went to the University of Notre Dame where his vocation solidified. While at Notre Dame he got to know a lot of priests. “They were a source of inspiration.”
He earned a degree in liberal arts from Notre Dame in 2009 and entered the seminary at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio, the following fall.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy two years later, and Bishop David Choby asked him to consider going to Rome to continue his seminary studies. After talking with some priests he knew who had studied in Rome, he decided he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to study in the heart of the Church.
In 2014, he earned a bachelor’s degree in sacred theology and for the last year he has been working toward an advanced degree in biblical theology.
“Bishop Choby told me from the beginning of my studies in Rome to be attentive to what my particular strengths and interests were,” Deacon Bulso said. “I noticed that I had a strength in the ancient languages and that I seemed to enjoy studying them considerably more than my classmates. So that was where the idea of studying Sacred Scripture was born, since in that area I could put my strength in the languages to good use.
“Furthermore, Sacred Scripture is often called ‘the soul of theology’ and St. Jerome said famously, ‘Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,’” Deacon Bulso added. “How could I not be attracted to studying God’s Word revealed to us in Sacred Scripture – the very foundation and core of our faith?
“The Lord has been good to me during my first year in the Biblical Theology program, increasing more and more my love for Sacred Scripture,” he said. “I am convinced that my time studying Scripture will make me a better priest all around, since it is such a central part of our ministry, and I hope to bring the Scriptures to life for my future parishioners, especially in my preaching.”
There have been several highlights to his time in Rome, Deacon Bulso said, including having a front row seat to history with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis.
“Another real highlight was the canonization of Pope John Paul II,” Deacon Bulso said. “He was such an inspiration for so many of us, and he holds a special place in my heart since he was the pope when I was a kid. And then of course he was the patron of my high school.
“I cannot tell you how moving it was to be standing there at the canonization and to hear Pope Francis pronounce the official words declaring him a saint,” Deacon Bulso said. “I have been truly blessed in my years in Rome.”
Deacon Bulso was ordained a transitional deacon in Rome last October. Serving as a deacon has given him a glimpse into his future as a priest.
“The Lord has provided a couple very poignant moments for me to exercise my ministry as a deacon,” he said. “The first was when my grandfather passed away at the end of April. I was able to serve as a deacon at his funeral Mass and I myself officiated the Rite of Committal at the cemetery.
“And then in May I served as the Church’s minister at the marriage of my brother, giving the homily and leading the Rite of Matrimony,” Deacon Bulso said. “For my family and for myself these were important moments of seeing my vocation bear fruit and getting a glimpse of the future. Both of these occasions, and many others, have truly kindled in me a passion to serve the people of God as a priest.”
After his ordination, Deacon Bulso will serve in the diocese for the rest of the summer before heading back to Rome for the final year of his studies.
He will celebrate his first Mass at 10 a.m. Saturday, June 13, at the Cathedral.