Alex Trebek doesn’t have a monopoly on three P’s.

Father Joseph McCaffrey gave the venerable game show host and life insurance spokesman a run for his money Tuesday when he came packing his own ‘P’ threesome — pandemic, protests and the primary — in Holy Spirit Parish’s first public Mass since mid-March.

The Mass itself fell under the P for pandemic, because the invasion of COVID-19 prompted churches around Pennsylvania to close their doors out of health and safety concerns. Though Lawrence County has been under green status since Friday, houses of worship remain limited to a percentage of capacity, and the churches of Holy Spirit Parish must wait until the entire Diocese of Pittsburgh falls within green parameters to head back to the pews.

During this time, Holy Spirit has been live streaming Mass, but on Tuesday, a Mass for Holy Spirit Academy families, teachers and staff was celebrated in the parking lot of the former Sears store in Union Township.

“It is a gift,” McCaffrey said, “to be able to celebrate Holy Mass and to receive our Lord in the Eucharist and it is a sign to the world that we will do whatever we have to, to make that possible under all kinds of circumstances.”

Karen Baum was among the occupants of the approximately 50 cars lined up for the Mass.

“We’ve missed it,” she said. “My daughter, Elizabeth, graduated this year (from Holy Spirit Academy) so we felt today would be kind of wrapping up her St. Vitus School experience.”

Stefanie Monstwil’s daughter, Alexa, also is a Holy Spirit Academy student, and Monstwil said they were excited to be outside the former Sears for Mass.

“If someone would have said three months ago you’re going to sit in your car and listen to the priest, I’d have thought, ‘you’re crazy,’” Monstwil said. “But we’re excited to be here.

“I had no idea I’d miss it this much. I just spoke with Father Brendan (Dawson), and he said we would have communion today, the Eucharist, which is amazing because we haven’t been able to do that for months now.”

For some, the man celebrating the Mass was reason enough to come out.

John and Susie Parran worship at SS John and Paul in Sewickly, McCaffrey’s former parish before being transferred to Lawence County in 2018.

“We’re here for Father,” Susie Parron said. “He’s the best. It’s worth the trip.”

Her husband added that the couple has driven to Lawrence County at least once a month even prior to the pandemic to hear McCaffrey speak.

“He’s that good,” Susie Parron added.

As for the other two P’s — protests and the primary — McCaffrey addressed both in his homily.

He read the gospel account of Jesus being asked whether it was right to pay taxes to Caesar, an episode of Scripture that concludes with Jesus’ instruction to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God.

“What do we owe to Caesar?” McCaffrey asked. “Well, we would live in chaos if we didn’t have government. There is the importance in just rule, keeping people safe, but we owe our very lives to God.

“Today, on this Election Day, it is important that we hear this Gospel. We have a responsibility to elect people who will lead us in the ways of truth and justice. But sometimes our choices aren’t too good.”

Some people, McCaffrey said, link themselves more to a political party or point of view than they do to their faith.

“There’s a lot of confusion in that,” he said. “‘I hold this in my political stance, but then again, I’m a Catholic.’ We can’t be one or the other. Our first loyalty must be to God. Then, we are called to work so that the government shares those same values.”

When Judeo-Christian values are dismissed, forgotten or neglected, McCaffrey said, the result manifests itself in scenarios of injustice and violence such as those now proliferating around the county.

“We fail to realize that every single human being is made in the image and likeness of God, no matter what the color of their skin, no matter what their ethnic background, nor their political point of view,” he said. “We are all God’s children. We all deserve life and liberty.

“And when we’re offended, somehow or other we forget that the one who offended us is still a child of God. There’s an old saying that you’ll hate the sin, but love the sinner. That’s very difficult to live, but that’s the law of God, and not always the law of Caesar.”

The Mass was warmed by sunshine when forecasters had been calling for rain — “God smiled on us,” McCaffrey said — and provided a learning experience for full public Masses to be celebrated at the same venue at 4 p.m. Saturday and 9 and 11 a.m. Sunday.

“We did figure out a few things,” McCaffrey said. “The guys (parking cars), they were supposed to have their vests to direct the traffic. And we had a little trouble with the sound (a low-power FM transmitter designed to let worshippers listen to the Mass through their car radios), but I think we got that straightened out.

“So it worked out well to learn how to be able to do it.”

d_irwin@ncnewsonline.com

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

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David Gettings receives Holy Communion from Father Joseph McCaffrey during an outdoor Mass on Tuesday afternoon in front of the former Sears b…

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

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Father Joseph McCaffrey blesses the gifts during an outdoor Mass on Tuesday afternoon in front of the former Sears building in Union Township.

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

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A chalice and other items await the start of Mass as cars arrive Tuesday in the parking lot of the former Sears building in Union Township.

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

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Cantor Mikaila Measel sings during Holy Spirit Parish Mass on Tuesday outside of the former Sears store in Union Township. 

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

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Father Joseph McCaffrey performs an outdoor Mass on Tuesday afternoon in front of the former Sears building in Union Township.

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

Parish celebrates Mass in former Sears parking lot

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Julie Gettings receives Holy Communion from Father Joseph McCaffrey during an outdoor Mass on Tuesday afternoon in front of the former Sears b…

Parking lot Mass planned at former Sears store

Parking lot Mass planned at former Sears store

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 Union Township’s former Sears store, which closed in 2016, will once again see cars outside its doors. Holy Spirit Parish is planning to cele…

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Reporter/page designer

Dan Irwin is currently a reporter and page designer. He was most recently the editor. He started with The News in 1978 and spent 10 years as a sports writer. He's a '78 Slippery Rock University graduate with a B.A. in English.

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