Herald employee has been an answered prayer for 48 years... and counting

May 13, 2014

HOUSTON — Vivian Zermeno’s career at the Texas Catholic Herald started with her praying an Our Father and a Hail Mary. It didn’t hurt that she could pray them in English and in Spanish when put on the spot.

Almost right in step with the Herald’s golden anniversary, the clerical assistant has been serving the newspaper and the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston for almost 50 years — 48, to be exact. In May of 1966, Zermeno was an 18-year-old graduate of Charles H. Milby High School in Houston looking for a job. Zermeno was working as a cashier when her boyfriend and husband-to-be received word about an employment opportunity with the Herald as an office clerk.

The day she applied, Monsignor John L. Fos — the founding executive editor of the Herald — asked to interview Zermeno for the open position. Besides Zermeno having all of the clerical skills in place, Monsignor Fos wanted to see if she passed some additional, “faith-based” criteria.

“The secretary told me they needed someone right now and that Father wanted to interview me,” Zermeno said. “I went into his office, and Monsignor Fos told me, ‘They say you are Catholic’ and I said yes. He then asked if I was a Catholic that goes to Mass every Sunday or one who says they are Catholic and never attends Mass on Sunday. I said ‘No, I’m a Catholic who goes to Mass every Sunday.’”

Next, he asked Zermeno to say the Hail Mary and the Our Father in English and in Spanish.

After she complied, Monsignor Fos offered his final question: “Can you start next Monday?”

Since that next Monday, Zermeno has been a most-valued asset to the Herald team in its many iterations over the years. From invoicing, billing and filing — even contributing as a staff photographer — she has assisted the Herald and anyone contacting the office with seemingly all manner of requests.

Over the years, some of the more unique and unusual tasks she has tackled involve her assisting readers with tracking down stories, photos and advertisements from past issues. Many times, the details of such requests are so scant and even inaccurate (off by a year or two...), the searches seem more daunting than finding the proverbial needle in the haystack.

“There have even been times people thought the articles were in the Herald but they were actually printed in other newspapers,” she said with a laugh. “That happens a lot.” But more often than not, Zermeno answers every request promptly, sifting through bound volume after bound volume of prior Herald issues until she strikes gold.

Personnel and operations have certainly evolved at the Herald during the past 50 years — while the current staff is more of an extension of the Communications Office, Zermeno vividly recalls the Herald of prior decades being staffed with reporters, photographers and typographical crews. The layout and circulation arm of the Herald was housed in the basement of the downtown chancery building — apart from the editorial office on the second floor.

Despite the changes, she continues to appreciate the constants that have endured, including visits from parish priests and interactions with those contacting the chancery.

With a career clocking in at 48 years and counting, Zermeno is the longest-serving employee in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston chancery system. Her contributions go well beyond the realm of the Herald — she also assists the Communications department by providing support to the reception desk, mail room and copy center.

Zermeno said she is planning to reach her own 50-year milestone in a couple of years and doesn’t rule out retiring then — although she is only pondering that future now. In the meantime, with her ready smile and always professional demeanor, Zermeno continues to serve the Herald and the Archdiocese like every day is her first on the job.

“As Bishop (John L.) Morkovsky always told us, ‘you need to spread the Good News’ and I enjoy being a part of that,” she said. “I like working here and helping other people.”