I remember well my first job interview. Senior year at George
Washington University and I stepped into the office of a
local community newspaper.
The first woman I saw was the receptionist. With a big smile,
she nearly shouted, "I don't know what you are here for, but
with that suit, you should get the job." My nervousness faded
as I patted the sides of my lavender suit, yes lavender, and
took a seat to await my interview. This woman not only put me
at ease, she presented a friendly face - a first impression -
for the entire company.
My first impression of the Arlington Catholic Herald was two
older women - the receptionist and bookkeeper - sitting in
the very quiet sixth-floor office. I recall a thin blue veil
of cigarette smoke and the not so subtle scent of Giorgio
perfume. Those days, smoking in the office was allowed. These
ladies were professional and pleasant, and they showed me how
to navigate the climate of the office run by Editor Charlie
Carruth, a Southern gentleman with an intimidating
Over my years at the Catholic Herald, we've had many
secretaries, receptionists, administrative assistants and
administrative professionals. Yes, the titles and job
descriptions have changed.
Each one brought something different to the job and to the
atmosphere of the office.
One was a young woman who desperately wanted to have
children, but could not. The day she found out there was a
baby awaiting adoption by her and her husband, she squealed
with delight and put in her notice.
Another had an illustrious career working closely with a
notable cardinal in Chicago.
One grandmotherly woman ran the office with the precision and
efficiency of a Marine Corps general, obviously from a
lifetime of being a general's wife with decades of experience
making things run more than smoothly.
A young woman from Costa Rica, who had left her parents
behind, found a needed fatherly figure in Editor Mike Flach,
even bringing in her boyfriend for Mike's approval. Another
woman had tried to find her niche in the convent, but decided
the lay single life was for her. Not long ago she sent in a
note with her wedding photos. She looked exuberant.
Just like all the personalities that have come and gone at
the Catholic Herald over its four decades, many stand out,
but perhaps none more than the women, yes they were all
women, who "manned" the front desk. The polite handling of
cranky readers, the wild goose chases of locating old photos
in bygone editions to the keeping us all on task with
timesheets, expense reports and birthday celebrations.
Secretaries, receptionists or administrative professionals -
they are often the unsung heroes of our offices. Seems
fitting to give them a high-five, a greeting card or a
sincere thank you April 27 on their day.