Ariana Lind, granddaughter of Nancy Rocha, poses this May in the same dress.
Ariana Lind, granddaughter of Nancy Rocha, poses this May in the same dress.
On a bright and sunny Sunday in May 1955 I lined up on my Catholic school playground with 170 other children. We form a long procession into All Saints Church in Hayward, California for the first holy Communion Mass. The day before we all went to confession then practiced the lineup, according to height, as well as the entry, seating plan, and how to walk to the altar rail and kneel to receive on our tongues, where the altar server would hold the paten under our chins. We were 8-10 children per row, boys and girls on either sides of the aisle. Fifty children were my school classmates and the other 120 had attended Saturday classes. We practiced our song, “Little White Guest,” to be sung as a group during the quiet meditation time near the end of Mass.

Every boy was in a suit and tie with polished black dress shoes. The girls were in beautiful white dresses, completing our outfits with lace and tulle veils, anklets and white shoes. We passed water fountains on that warm morning, paper-covered so we would not be tempted to break our overnight fast with a sip of water. Between my folded hands was my missal, part of my First Communion Mass Kit, which also included a white pearl rosary, brown scapular and gold-tone chalice pin. We sat through the Latin Mass and monsignor’s sermon, nervously awaiting first Communion time. The moment finally came! The host was delectable, melting in our mouths, never chewed, as we returned to our pews to give thanks to Jesus.

Mother had made my dress of sheer white dotted Swiss from a fashionable McCall’s pattern, including a scalloped hem and full taffeta slip, which I considered scratchy. Veils were purchased from the catalog offered by our school’s Dominican nuns from Adrian, Michigan. I felt like a princess, reluctant to take off the dress after my family brunch. However, the next Sunday, the first Communicants would wear their outfits for the annual parish May Crowning, and we could wear them again the next year as third-graders if they fit; mine did. Then the dress was carefully stored.

As a blessed surprise, that dress has fit all three of my daughters, in 1986, 1990, and 2000, all receiving at St. Wenceslaus Church in Scappoose. It has gone on to fit two granddaughters, in 2015 and 2021. The dotted Swiss has aged to a lovely ivory and the veil looks new. Whereas my group photo features 170 children on tiers of risers, my youngest granddaughter was in a class of one girl and three boys at St. John Parish in Yamhill. She felt like a princess on June 6, posing for photos, then jumping and twirling at home as the dress formed a perfect circle. She cherishes the long lineage of the dress and the Catholic faith that has sustained her family for generations as she viewed old photos and those very happy, angelic little girls from her past, including her grandmother, mother, aunts and cousin.

The writer is a member of St. Juan Diego Parish in Northwest Portland.