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: Historical clarity and today’s Catholic contentions

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One of the curiosities of the 21st-century Catholic debate is that many Catholic traditionalists (especially integralists) and a high percentage of Catholic progressives make the same mistake in analyzing the cause of today’s contentions within the Church — or to vary the old fallacy taught in Logic 101, they think in terms of post Concilium ergo propter Concilium [everything that’s happened after the Council has happened because of the Council]. And inside that fallacy is a common misreading of modern Catholic history. The traditionalists insist that everything was fine before the Council (which many of them therefore regard as a terrible mistake); the progressives agree that the pre-Vatican II Church was a stable institution but deplore that stability as rigidity and desiccation.

But that’s not the way things were pre-Vatican II, as I explain at some length and with some engaging stories in my new book, The Irony of Modern Catholic History: How the Church Rediscovered Itself and Challenged the Modern World to Reform (Basic Books). And no one knew the truth about pre-Vatican II Catholicism better than the man who was elected pope during the Council and guided Vatican II through its last three sessions, St. Paul VI.

On January 25, 1959, Pope John XXIII, thought to be an elderly placeholder, stunned both the Church and the world by announcing his intention to summon the 21st ecumenical council. That night, Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini (who would be known as Paul VI four and a half years later), called an old friend. An experienced churchman who had long served Pius XII as chief of staff, Montini saw storm clouds on the horizon: “This holy old boy,” he said of John XXIII, “doesn’t know what a hornet’s nest he’s stirring up.”

That shrewd observation turned out to be spot on –– and not simply because of the Council, but because of the bees and hornets that had been buzzing around the ecclesiastical nest for well over 100 years.

Contrary to both traditionalist and progressive misconceptions, Catholicism was not a placid institution, free of controversy and contention, prior to Vatican II. As I show in The Irony of Modern Catholic History, there was considerable intellectual ferment in the Church during the mid-19th century, involving great figures like the recently-canonized John Henry Newman, the German bishop Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler (grandfather of modern Catholic social thought), and the Italian polymath Antonio Rosmini (praised by John Paul II in the 1999 encyclical, Faith and Reason, and beatified under Benedict XVI). That ferment accelerated during the 25 year pontificate of Leo XIII, who launched what I dub the “Leonine Revolution,” challenging the Church to engage the modern world with distinctively Catholic tools in order to convert the modern world and lay a firmer foundation for its aspirations.

American Catholicism, heavily focused on institution-building, was largely unaware of the sharp-edged controversies (and ecclesiastical elbow-throwing) that followed Leo XIII’s death in 1903. Those controversies, plus the civilization-shattering experience of two world wars in Europe, plus a rapid secularization process in Old Europe that began in the 19th century, set the stage for John XXIII’s epic opening address to Vatican II. There, the Pope explained what he envisioned Vatican II doing: gathering up the energies let loose by the Leonine Revolution and focusing them through the prism of an ecumenical council, which he hoped would be a Pentecostal experience energizing the Church with new evangelical zeal.

John XXIII understood that the Gospel proposal could only be made by speaking to the modern world in a vocabulary the modern world could hear. Finding the appropriate grammar and vocabulary for contemporary evangelization didn’t mean emptying Catholicism of its content or challenge, however. As the Pope insisted, the perennial truths of the faith were to be expressed with the “same meaning” and the “same judgment.” Vatican II, in other words, was to foster the development of doctrine, not the deconstruction of doctrine. And the point of that doctrinal development was to equip the Church for mission and evangelization, for the modern world would be converted by truth, not ambiguity or confusion.

Over the past six and a half years, it’s become abundantly clear that more than a few Catholics, some quite prominently placed, still don’t get this history. Nor do the more vociferous elements in the Catholic blogosphere. Which is why I hope The Irony of Modern Catholic History helps facilitate a more thoughtful debate on the Catholic present and future, through a better understanding of the Catholic past.