I, Fr. David Nix, led about 20 Colorado University students to Rwanda in 2014. Upon return, Alana Chen (then at CU) encouraged 20 CSU students from our Africa trip to write letters about my character when it was doubted by older folks back in the US on issues of pastoral kindness. This was around one of the very last times I saw her (2014) and she sadly died this past weekend (7 Dec 2019.) I am extremely grateful for her defending my good name even from the grave, when doubted on similar issues of pastoral kindness towards University students this past week of mourning her loss. May God grant salvation, perpetual light and peace to her soul.
On Aug 28, 2014, at 6:18 PM, Alana Chen <achen64UU@gmail.com> sent to [20 different, verified Colorado State University addresses]:
I’m sure you all have either heard from or heard about Fr. Dave and his current situation. I urge all of you to pray as much as you can for him. I also strongly suggest for every one to write to the archdiocese giving testimony to Fr. Dave’s witness and personal impact on your life and your faith. Remember when we were all having lunch together in Belgium, sharing what we admire about each person? I’m pretty sure that when it was time to share about Fr. Dave every single person used the word “saint” some where in their praise for him.
I know that personally I would not be who I am today without him as my father. For some reason, the Lord chose Fr. Dave to be an instrument to aid in the salvation of my soul, I’m sure many of you could say the same thing. Fr. Dave is a priest who is committed to the salvation of souls for Jesus Christ!
All good and holy priests have people who love them and people who hate them, but the people who hate them are the ones who tend to write to the pastors and bishops. Although we cannot save Fr. Dave from the cross he must bear, we can pray for him, and we can do such a small thing as to give testimony for him, to stand by him while he endures such humiliation and turmoil.
Fr. Dave spent his entire time in Kibeho and even afterwards to free us from our sins and unbind us from our pasts. Out of love and gratitude for an amazing man please take the time to advocate for him. It doesn’t have to be a long litany or an angry defense, just a simple testimony on how he led you personally to Christ.
I hope you all have a wonderful semester!
Peace and blessings,
Addendum 1 of 2: Below is a letter of recommendation I wrote to Wyoming Catholic College for Alana in 2012. Although she never ended up going to Wyoming Catholic College, she responded within the hour to the below recommendation with simply, “Thanks Father that is great!” I add it now as a somewhat-belated obituary to honor the real Alana. I still stick by every sentence:
Dear Wyoming Catholic College Admissions, 11 Dec 2012
Glory to Jesus Christ.
I write in support of Alana Chen’s application to Wyoming Catholic College. I have been her spiritual director for 2-3 years and I know of few high school students with a greater capacity to live (and even suffer) for Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Alana has a deep desire to not only know the Catholic Faith on an intellectual level, but even persevere in daily mental prayer, the sacraments and devotion to Our Lady.
Nonetheless, Alana lives a very normal and integrated life in one of the most “progressive” areas in the country, Boulder, Colorado. Be it with her ultimate frisbee team, or humbly answering questions from her history teacher at the public high school on the Catholic faith, Alana is a great witness to what it means to be a little disciple of Jesus in a hostile environment. She has a unique ability to combine meekness and boldness in her daily interactions with so many unbelievers.
Even her family finds her devotion a bit foreign to their own. Thankfully, Alana has some very good Catholic Christians and non-Catholic Christians who support her in her walk, which includes discernment of the religious life. Because of her “swimming upstream” in life, so to speak, I would also recommend her without reservation for consideration of any scholarships available to outstanding applicants.
In Jesus and Mary,
Fr. David Nix
St. Joseph’s Parish
Alana with us on mission in Africa in 2014 (which her mother approved of, though she was 18.) Through the years, my discussions with Alana were lighthearted discussions on her own desire to be a Missionary of Charity, the congregation founded by Mother Teresa. Now after her tragic death, Alana’s friends would all say today that the closer she was to the Catholic Church, the better was her mental health. Alana was prohibited from going to her own parish by her mother in 2017 (six years after I had left there.) Zoom in and notice that such is not the face of depression.