Father Joe Noche preaches the homily.
Father Joe Noche preaches the homily.
The number of people who turned out for Father K. Michael “Mick” Lambeth’s funeral services, and who shared messages of sympathy and fond memories on social media in the days that followed, offered a powerful testament to what he meant to those who knew him.

“He was wonderful, and everyone I knew loved him,” said Sue Eggart, as she entered St. Theresa Church, Little Egg Harbor, for Father Lambeth’s June 3 Mass of Christian Burial.

“When he gave his homilies, he talked to you and he was so caring and loving,” she said, then added that she will always remember the two occasions when Father Lambeth was called to administer the Anointing of the Sick to her family members.

“He came right away,” she said. “He always put other people first. All the people here at St. Theresa’s felt the love that came from him and [recognized] the depth of his spirituality. He was phenomenal.”

Father Lambeth, a retired priest of the Diocese and retired pastor of St. Theresa Church, where he served from 2008 to 2019, died May 29 at age 74.

Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., was principal celebrant of the Mass that was attended by hundreds of people, including St. Theresa parishioners as well as those with whom Father Lambeth encountered in other parish and diocesan assignments and some 50 of his brother priests. Many more also paid their respects during Visitation services on June 2.

Father Lambeth’s demeanor as a man and as a priest was captured in the spirited homily given by his close friend, Father Joe Noche, pastor of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Hainesport.

“In a real sense, it is not death that brings us here this morning, but life – the life of Father Mick,” said Father Noche.

“Mick lived life to the fullest,” he said, recounting that Father Lambeth was born and raised in Dallas, Tex.; served in the U.S. Navy, making four tours of duty in the Vietnam War on the Naval Destroyer Ozbourn DD-846, and later worked for two retail chains. It was after a long discernment that he entered St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore, to begin studies for the priesthood for the Diocese of Trenton. He was ordained May 21, 1994 by Bishop John C. Reiss.

During his 28 years as a priest, Father Lambeth served in a number of diocesan and parish roles, including as pastor of three parishes – Sacred Heart, Trenton; Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Trenton, and St. Theresa Parish. His also served as diocesan director of vocations and the Sacred Heart House of Priestly Formation in Trenton. It was there Father Noche first met Father Lambeth as Father Noche discerned his own vocation to the priesthood more than 20 years ago.

“Yes, Mick loved to bring Christ to people,” Father Noche said.

“His love for the Mass and the Eucharist is unquestionable,” Father Noche said, noting that his friend died on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, “the day that Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, and the place that Mick himself longed to follow.”

After recalling Father Lambeth’s approachable and non-judgmental manner, parishioner Doris Rosa said, “I wish I could hug him just one more time.”

On social media, where coverage of the funeral services reached more than 5,500 users, Father Lambeth was memorialized in scores of comments.

“A beautiful tribute for a very special man. The parishioners of St. Theresa were so blessed to have Father Mick as our pastor and our leader,” was parishioner Pat Murphy Kaes’ comment on Facebook.

Parishioner Ann Mellusi Bowersox also commented, “Beautiful Mass for a wonderful priest. We were so blessed to have him as our pastor. RIP Father Mick. You will be missed.”