Dale Mecimore, 7, was nervous at what she had been told was the most important day of her life. She sat as still as possible and listened to every word the priest said.

"It seemed like a lot of years before this day would come," the priest said. "But now, He's coming to you and He'll be with you always."

"Yes, it happened when I took the bread," Dale said after the Saturday morning mass. "Yes, I felt Jesus."

Dale, who lives in Vienna, was one of thousands of area second grad Rohman Catholic children who received the eucharist for the first time. It is a rite of passage for many children, who week after week, have watched their parents and their older brothers and sisters walk to the altar rail, receive the holy communion wafer and return solemnly to their pew.

For Dale, her mother and her grandmother, the day may have been even more special than for most. Grandmother Stella Diedrich made the long trip from Spring Lake, Mich, for the occasion.

Her godmother in Minnesota sent her a white encmel cross painted with pink roses and fringed with gold, and a "book of saints." Her brother, Michael, 10, volunteered to be an altar boy for the occasion.

"I've come down (to Vienna) for all of their first holy communions," said Diedrich. "But she is the first girl after three boys. That made it even more special for us."

"This is the last one," Mrs Mecimore said. "So my mother and I put away money every week to buy that material for Dale's dress," she said, pointing out the lily-of-the-valley pattern woven into the peau de sole. Both women had worn white dresses at their first communions. They described their tears during the ceremony that morning, and called it "a day for memories."

"One of the greatest joys for a priest is to able to bring Jesus to young children on the occasion of their holy communion," the Rev. Edward J. Cororan told the 101 children assembled at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church on Wolf Trap Road in Vienna.

As the parents and friends listened, he went on:

"You don't remember, but I did baptise many of you. I won't embarrass the little boy by telling his name. But one day he came to me and said, "Father, why doesn't Jesus come to me?" This little boy has older brothers and sisters who have already taken their first holy communion. The little boy told me, 'He comes to Frank and He comes to Mary, but He won't come to me."

"Well, today is the day. He was waiting for this day to come because He loves you . . . When Jesus was tired , the disciples wanted to send the people away. Jesus said 'No, let the little children come to ME.' He said that because He loves little children," the priest continued.

"You've all prayed a great deal and your parents and your teachers in the school have helped you . . . You look like little angels," he said, looking over a sea of flower-and-tiara-topped veils. The little boys sat quietly, most of them wearing suits and ties. "You look like little men," said the Priest.

In the hallway of the Parish Parochial school, the place of reunion for many of the children and their families after the service, Sister Patricia Feely explaines to a visitor that this day had had "immense preparation." There was a day of retreat when the second graders from public school joined those in the parochial school.

Much time was spent practicing the reception of communion in the hand, which she said was done uniformly because "these children are too yound for options: communion on the tongue will come later,"

She said there was a series of parental meetings and parents had a choice of selecting that day's "traditional" service, or one later in which the children sit with their parents in reserved news. Thirty-five families at Good Council elected to attend that ceremony.

Earlier, during distribution of the eucharist, Sara Crockett, 5 1/2, had begun fidgeting. Her 8-year-old brother, PIerce, was far away on the other side of the church. She had been straining to see him receive Communion, but now her attention was on the girls filing back after receiving the Host.

"You won't be able to take your first holy communion until you're seven," said a woman in the pew behind her. "Do you think you'll like it?"

Yes," Sara whispered, her eyes shining with the anticipation of joining her family in what she already realized, at 5 1/2, would be a fuller participation in her faith.her faith.