Like any other Bukusu boy, Otunga spent his early years at the homestead of his father. Namisi taught him the first tenets of their traditional religion and was content on educating him on her own. However, Chief Sudi, a man who saw the valued of formal education, had his eight-year-old son enrolled in a school at Kibabii in Kanduyi (Bungoma) in 1931. Two years later, he was transferred to a school in Sijei (Bungoma).
Both of these schools were supervised by the Mill Hill Missionaries who had been evangelizing the then-apostolic vicariate of Kisumu since the beginning of the 20th century. It was in this environment that Otunga was introduced to the Catholic faith. Having learned his catechism sufficiently, Otunga was deemed ready for baptism by the head catechist. At first, Chief Sudi refused his son’s request to become a Catholic. Thinking that the boy’s eagerness would later fade away, nonetheless, he later relented and allowed him to be baptized.
On 1 September 1935, Otunga, along with several women and men, were baptized at Kibabi by Fr. Leon Puylaert, MHM, and Fr. Ferdinand Fent, MHM. On that occasion, he was christened Maurice, in honor of the widely-venerated Egyptian martyr from the 3rd century. Many years later, Otunga would recall that “at baptism, I felt like a different person. I felt it.”
That same year, Otunga continued his studies at Kabaa High School in Mwala (Machakos), a school founded and administered by the Holy Ghost Fathers. In 1939, he and several students were moved to Mang’u (Gatundu North, Kiambu) where the secondary division of the school was transferred. That same year, however, he returned to Kabaa to receive confirmation from the hands of the Servant of God Bishop Joseph Shanahan, CSSp, on 29 September. In honor of the saint of that day, he was confirmed with the name Michael.