PATTERSON, CA (March 29, 2017) – A celebration of life service for retired Covenant pastor Mary Nella McLaughlin, 69, will be conducted at 2 p.m. on April 1 at Patterson Covenant Church. She died February 11 after a battle with ovarian cancer.
She was born October 24, 1947, in Hemet, California, to John and Mary McLaughlin. From the age of five, she was raised by her grandparents.
Mary Nella studied sociology at the College of the Desert in Palm Desert, California, and theology at the Melodyland School of Theology. She earned an MDiv at North Park Theological Seminary.
Mary Nella married David Bruce on September 11, 1981. They later divorced.
Together they pastored South Chicago Evangelical Covenant Church from 1985 to 1990. They launched the Barnabas Project, a nonprofit that grew out of the church’s ministry. Through the ministry, they established low-income housing; a homeless program with World Vision; and a youth ranch for inner-city youth. They also purchased buildings for two transitional housing apartment buildings, Wellspring House and Leland House. They also co-pastored Patterson Covenant Church in Patterson, California.
Mary Nella founded a nonprofit, Women Changing the World, to help women in West Africa and Southeast Asia. Amid ongoing violence in Somalia during which her life was threatened several times, Mary Nella helped train women to start and run their own businesses. The organization also started an orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya.
In California Mary Nella engaged in numerous ministries including to migrant farmers and the homeless. When a friend was deported to Honduras, she moved to the country for a month to help her get settled.
Mary Nella served as chaplain at the Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, California, and several other hospitals. She most recently served as chaplain at Deuel Locational Institution for Men in Tracy, California.
She is survived by seven children and four grandchildren.