Bella co-founder credits Christ with health clinic’s phenomenal growth

State of the art health center uses best of nature, science to offer holistic family and women’s care

Roxanne King

Four years ago, nurse practitioners Dede Chism and her daughter Abbey Sinnett opened Bella Natural Women’s Care as a state of the art health clinic offering care that is natural, scientific and holistic. When they opened their doors that Dec. 8 they had no patients—but they did have hearts full of faith and hope.

Now called Bella Natural Women’s Care and Family Wellness, the practice boasts 7,000 patients and registers some 200 new ones a month at its offices located at 180 E. Hampden Ave. in Englewood.

Due to demand, Bella added family medicine in 2016. That practice has grown so much that Bella is now expanding its 4,000-square-foot clinic by 1,200-square feet, primarily for family medicine. Bella also runs two satellite clinics in partnership with Catholic Charities’ Marisol Health offices. And the Bella model is being replicated around the nation.

“The success of our office is because Jesus is in the house,” Chism told the Denver Catholic during a tour of Bella that started in its chapel.

The chapel is essential in that the founders’ credit inspiration for Bella to the Holy Spirit.

“My daughter and I had just finished a very difficult medical mission in the high Andes in Peru where we encountered much brokenness,” Chism recalled. “I said to her, I think Our Lord is asking us to bring this back home. Abbey said, ‘I’m hearing the exact same thing.’

“It was like the Lord said, ‘There’s brokenness everywhere. There’s poverty everywhere. Come and care for my people back home.”

Returning to Colorado, they won the support of Archbishop Samuel Aquila, who  dedicated Bella when it opened two years after the duo’s initial inspiration.

“We made the decision with Archbishop Sam to open as a nonprofit under the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Denver Archdiocese,” Chism said. “He discerned it as an authentic movement of the Holy Spirit.… He made a prediction that this would be bigger than we could ever imagine. He said, ‘Mark my words, there is a need.’”

Chism marvels that Bella’s tremendous growth is so apparent in this 50th anniversary year of Humanae Vitae, the prophetic 1968 encyclical letter of St. Pope Paul VI on the regulation of birth, and on Archbishop Aquila’s recent pastoral letter on human sexuality, “The Splendor of Love.”

“When Pope Paul VI encouraged men of science to find a different way to care for people—care with dignity that is in line with God’s plan for his children—we had pioneers [in natural regulation of fertility] such as Dr. Thomas Hilgers, founder of the Pope Paul VI Institute. We’ve now hired our third physician for Bella: Dr. Kathleen McGlynn, who is one of Dr. Hilgers’ prodigies.”

Armed with a background in cutting-edge science addressing infertility, problem gynecology and obstetrics, McGlynn joined Bella in March.

“We find our methods for restoring the body and hormones as they need to be is as effective if not more effective [than in vitro fertilization],” Chism said.

Bella prides itself on embracing the dignity of the human person and using the highest standards of obstetrics, gynecology, fertility, nutrition and family health. In keeping with their life-affirming care, they also offer abortion reversal.

“Always a vital part of our care is a sincere compassion and respect for life,” said Chism, who authored “The High-Risk Pregnancy Sourcebook” (Lowell, 1997). “We want to support women in the best way that cooperates with their bodies. We bring that same level of care for body, mind and soul to the family.”

Patients say the quality care and reverence each person receives at Bella is unique.

“I am so grateful for Bella!” Denver resident Shaina Stein Palumbo wrote on Bella’s Facebook page in February. “From the moment I walked in the door to the moment I left, I felt transformed. I left with a sense of strength, femininity, ownership of a plan of care, and love. It is difficult to find a medical office that is willing to look outside of the box and provide genuine care. I am so glad that I have found Bella!”

“I wanted a practice that was not only focused on women’s care, but one that also valued the life of my child,” wrote Aurora resident Sheryl Clements in July. “I credit their proactive approach with allowing me to give birth to a healthy baby, and I have not been at a clinic that was so attentive.”

Since 2014 Bella has grown from a staff of six people to 34. The medical staff includes three doctors, a nurse midwife and five nurse practitioners.

In 2016, Bella partnered with Catholic Charities to offer clinical services at the agency’s Marisol Health centers in Denver and Lafayette. Last year, Bella became the model clinic and co-founding organization for the national Pro-Women’s Health Center (PWHC) Consortium, an initiative that unites clinics across the nation committed to standards of excellence in health care for women.

“Additionally, we are working with nine sites across the country seeking to create their own clinics based on the Bella model,” Chism said, adding that she’s grateful for Bella’s tremendous success.

“Our word of mouth response from patients is astronomical in the medical world,” she said. “Especially when Planned Parenthood and the like are putting so much money into negative messaging [about faith-based clinics].”

Although practicing medicine in line with Catholic teaching, more than half of Bella’s patients are non-Catholic, comprised of other Christians, practitioners of other faiths and people of no faith drawn by Bella’s combination of conventional and natural care.

Bella accepts insurance, self-pay and Medicaid. Patients aren’t refused care and about a third of their patients cannot pay, Chism said, adding that she hopes as people consider end of year giving they’ll consider helping Bella.

“We are excited about what’s going on and how the Lord can do things that would be impossible for man,” she said. “We think the people of northern Colorado will feel hope from what the Lord has done with a couple unlikely girls’ yes.”

BELLA NATURAL WOMEN’S CARE AND FAMILY WELLNESS

180 E. Hampden Ave., Suite 100, Englewood, CO 80113

Bellanwc.org

303-789-4968

COMING UP: Nothing about us without us

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The slogan “Nothing about us without us” was used by Solidarity in the 1980s in Poland, borrowing a royal motto from the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the mid-second millennium. Then, it was expressed in Latin: Nihil de nobis sine nobis. Later, it appeared in Polish on the banners of 19th-century Poles fighting their country’s partition by Russia, Prussia, and Austria: Nic o Nas bez Nas. Today, it’s often used by disability activists asserting their claim to be fully participant in society.

“Nothing about us without us” also applies to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region, which will meet in Rome in October.

That Synod will involve seven bishops’ conferences from nine Latin American countries who will consider their pastoral situation under the theme, “Amazonia: new paths for the Church and for an integral ecology.” As is usually the case in these meetings, the bishops at the Synod will work with materials drafted in Rome. Early indicators from the Synod’s preparatory document suggest that the Amazonian Synod will be longer on environmentalism than on theology. International media attention will doubtless focus on the Synod’s discussion of climate change and its relationship to Amazonian deforestation.

Recent synodal history suggests, however, that more will be afoot at the Amazonian Synod than what its announced theme suggests.

The 2014 and 2015 Synods were called to consider the crisis of marriage and the family throughout the world. Yet they became the occasion for powerful churchmen to try to deconstruct Catholic moral theology and sacramental discipline, according to the tried-and-failed theologies and pastoral practices of the 1970s. The 2018 Synod, summoned to discuss youth ministry and vocational discernment, began with an effort by the Synod general secretariat to enshrine the world’s language of sexual plasticity (and the lame understandings of happiness that underwrite that language) into an official Church document. When that failed, Synod-2018 became the occasion for the Synod general secretariat to promote an ill-defined notion of “synodality” that struck more than a few bishops present as a prescription for local-option, choose-your-own-doctrine Catholicism on the model of the (imploding) Anglican Communion.

This pattern seems likely to continue at the Amazonian Synod. There, the deeper agenda will be the ordination of mature married men — viri probati — to the priesthood. Proponents will argue that this dramatic change in the Church’s longstanding tradition of a celibate priesthood (which, contrary to much misinformation, antedates the early Middle Ages by hundreds of years) is necessary because Amazonia is a Catholic area deprived of the Eucharist by a lack of priests. One hopes that the counterclaims — that Amazonia is mission territory requiring wholesale evangelization, and that Amazonia’s lack of priests reflects racial and class divisions in Latin American Catholicism that discourage priests of European pedigree from working with indigenous peoples — get a serious hearing.

Proponents of ordaining viri probati in Amazonia, including retired Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, OFM, have insisted that any such concession there would have no implications for the universal Church. That cannot be, however. Should the Amazonian Synod request the Pope to grant a dispensation from the discipline of celibacy for that region, and should he grant it, it will be just a matter of time before bishops conferences elsewhere — Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and Austria come immediately to mind — make similar requests, citing pressing pastoral needs. On what ground would those requests be denied?

In a year-end interview with Vatican News, the Synod’s general secretary, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, insisted that the Amazonian Synod would not discuss environmental issues only, but would also confront “ecclesial themes” — and would do so in a way that Amazonia could be “a model for the whole world.”

We can be grateful to the cardinal for his candor in, however unintentionally, letting the celibacy cat out of the synodal bag. Any decision to ordain viri probati in Amazonia would inevitably have major consequences for the entire Church. A decision of this magnitude cannot be taken by an unrepresentative segment of the Church and then turned into a “model” for everyone else.

That is why the principle of “Nothing about us without us” must apply here. Whatever else “synodality” may mean, it surely must mean that decisions bearing on everyone should involve as broad a consultation and as global a reflection as possible. Bishops who agree should make their concerns known now, not after the Amazonian synod meets.

Featured image by Vatican Media | CNA