Mary Veronica Marnell, known as May to her family, was born in Springbank on 15th August, 1908. Her parents were farmers in Bungaree. Her mother, Julia Marnell nee Reidy was a local Springbank girl and her father, Richard, was also born locally in Learmonth. May was the eldest in the family with two younger brothers.
May’s father, Richard Marnell, died when the children were young, so the young family moved into Ballarat to live with May’s grandmother.
May attended St. Joseph’s Parish School and St. Alipius Parish School. She left school at the age of 14 when the family moved to Northcote in Melbourne. May found a job as a lift operator at Georges in Collins Street, her wage being an important contribution to the family income. When her brothers were old enough to take over as the wage earners, May was free to answer the call to religious life and joined the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or Loreto Sisters, in 1937.
May was given the religious name, ‘Presentation’, but was affectionately known as ‘Pressie’ by her community. After completing her novitiate, Sister Presentation spent four years working at Loreto Kirribilli in Sydney. Her duties included cooking, cleaning and portressing.
In 1944 she returned to Ballarat, where she spent the rest of her life. Loved by nuns and students alike, Pressie is particularly remembered in her role as portress, which involved greeting and caring for visitors to the convent with her wonderful smile and warmth and her kind hospitality, her delicious breakfasts for visiting priests and morning and afternoon teas for guests. Pressie was also known for comforting homesick boarders or troubled students with a sympathetic ear over the dining room duties and treats of ‘broken’ biscuits from ‘Pressie’s Pantry’. Sr. Presentation and her cousin, Sr. Anne Reidy, acted as resident counsellors and eased the path of many Loreto students in Ballarat.
When her health deteriorated, Sr. Presentation moved to Nazareth House where she was cared for until her death on 22nd March, 2003, at the age of 94.