Alana Chen: Who Was She? How Did She Die?

Serving as a tribute to Alana Chen and her family, ‘Dear Alana’ is a podcast that takes us through the young woman’s journey who suffered several traumatic years of miseducation and religious abuse, resulting in severe depression. Exploring her short life, the podcast also deals with the host Simon Kent Fung connecting with her mother and delving deep into her life through the young woman’s journals while exploring the devastating impact conversion therapy can have on people. If you are intrigued to know who Alana Chen was and her demise, let’s get into the details of her life, shall we?

Who Was Alana Chen?

Alana Faith Chen was born on October 14, 1995, in Walnut Creek, California, to two wonderful parents, Joyce and Michael Chen. Apart from being an incredible daughter, she was also a loving sister to all her siblings — Sabatino, Carissa, and Sophia. Despite being the youngest of them all, Alana was the reason why the four siblings shared a close-knit bond. She was a junior ranger who loved spending time outdoors on her hobbies, which included playing ultimate frisbee, camping, climbing, hiking, and backpacking. Alana was also into arts as she wrote songs, played musical instruments like piano and guitar, and even designed her own clothes.

Image Credit: Colorado Hometown Weekly

Alana’s compassion and willingness to help others were reflected in her actions, as she spent several afternoons and weekends talking to homeless people in Boulder and keeping them company. After completing her schooling, she studied wilderness therapy and psychology at Prescott College in Arizona in hopes of one day helping individuals battling mental illness. In addition, Alana applied for a Master’s degree in Counseling to become a therapist and make her dream of assisting others come true.

The bright young woman worked at Sweet Cow Ice Cream in Old Town Louisville for a while, regularly giving out free ice creams and spreading joy among the community. Also known to be deeply religious and committed to God, Alana even had a strong desire to become a nun one day, according to the journals she left behind. All in all, she was considered a beautiful soul inside out who was known for her selfless acts and helpful nature.

Alana Chen’s Tragic End: A Closer Look

At the tender age of 13, Alana Chen attended two summer camps. The first was at Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Church, where the college students spellbound her. Her second camp was at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church in Boulder, Colorado. This is where Alana crossed paths with Father David Nix, a controversial priest who allegedly took a keen interest in her. And so it began — eight years of regular meet-ups between the two in his office in the name of “spiritual direction.”

As Alana’s siblings grew older, they began losing interest in the church. Meanwhile, her devotion and commitment to the church only seemed to increase with time, with her leading worship for Catholic middle school youth groups and going on a mission trip to Rwanda. However, beneath the surface, Alana suffered a great deal of trauma. When she was 14, she allegedly confided in David and confessed that she was attracted to women. Using her desire to become a nun against her, he started instructing her on his own terms, according to Alana’s mother, Joyce.

David reportedly told Alana that “being gay was impure and acting out on such desires was a mortal sin” and that she would not only lose out on her dream of becoming a nun but even become bound for hell if she ever decided to indulge in a lesbian relationship. Not just that, he even convinced her not to come out to her parents by telling her that if they were to affirm her identity as a lesbian, she would not change at all. Since Alana was an impressionable girl and a devotee, she listened and did what the priest told her. From then on, as per Joyce, he made her read articles that vilified gay people and pushed her to consider changing her orientation.

Alana was encouraged in this by another pastor named Father Peter Mussett of the St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Center, who suggested she apply to Desert Stream’s Living Waters program. When David moved away, she was handled by the Sisters of Life, who went as far as petitioning Joyce to allow her daughter to undergo conversion therapy by a licensed therapist. Although her mother refused to cave in, Alana had already suffered from years of alleged miseducation, wrongful pastoral counseling, conversion therapy, and religious abuse, which made her severely depressed and prone to having ideas of self-harm and suicide.

When Alana’s parents learned about her trauma, they took her to two treatment centers and enlisted professional help from several reputable therapists. Even though she received love and support from her family and friends, she suffered from depression and acute post-traumatic stress, which did not allow her to enter a Catholic church without having a panic attack. On December 7, 2020, Alana told her friends and family that she was going for a hike at Chautauqua Park in Boulder. But when she did not return, the 24-year-old woman was reported missing by her family.

After a couple of days of searching, on December 9, 2020, the police received a tip about a suspicious vehicle parked in the Osprey Parking lot at Gross Reservoir. Upon running the license plate, they concluded that it belonged to Alana. Following this revelation, the investigators searched the area near Gross Reservoir and found her dead on the same day near Gross Reservoir in Nederland. The 24-year-old reportedly hanged herself on December 8, 2020, leaving a note suggesting that despite getting professional help, the years of religious abuse and psychological torture were too much to bear.

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