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

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: Did Christians ban the Games? Tales, myths and other fun facts about the ancient Olympics

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The 2020 Summer Olympics began less than a week ago, and as is usually the case, there’s been enough stunning athleticism, shocking upsets and yes, even a little bit of drama on display to keep the water cooler chatter abuzz until at least the 2022 games.

At their best, the Olympic games bridge cultural divides and unite countries around the world as the greatest living athletes around the globe compete for the coveted gold medal in their respective events. There’s a spirit of global camaraderie that welcomely comes about during every Olympiad; whether watching the Games at home with the family or going to a local bar to cheer on your favorite country, the Olympics bring people together in a way that most other sporting events do not.

Another astounding thing about the Olympics is how they’ve endured over the millennia. Indeed, they provide a special glimpse into the history of the world and those common qualities of humanity that will never die; namely, the need for both unitive, universal community and friendly but fierce competition.

The first recorded Olympic games took place in 776 B.C., though some historians speculate that they could have began as early as the 10th century B.C. The games were held every four years in Olympia to honor the greek god Zeus as one of four Panhellenic festivals, this one coinciding with the second full moon following the summer solstice, usually at the end of July or early August. The Olympics became so significant that the term Olympiad was used to mark a year the games took place, and became a common unit of historical time measurement.

Now, the ancient world wasn’t exactly known for its amicability or even peacefulness, as indicated by the countless wars and power usurpations that took place throughout its history. However, Olympic festivals were marked by a truce among the Greeks called ekecheiria, which roughly means “holding of hands.” This ensured safe travels for athletes and spectators as they made their way to the festival and was a common basis for peace among the Greeks. That the Olympic games could get even the constantly feuding Greeks to lay down their arms and come together in a spirit of solidarity speaks to their significance in ancient history.

Early Olympic events included the footrace, wrestling, the long jump, the javelin throw, the discus throw and boxing. Of course, it’s nigh impossible to read about the ancient Olympics and not come across epic tales of chariot racing, an event which was briefly banned early on but was reinstated by the first century B.C. and drew the interest of several key Roman figures (more on that later).

By the fifth century B.C., athletes from all over the Greek-speaking world came to Olympia for the games. The footrace, also called the Stade or Stadion, was considered the most prestigious event, and is where the english word “stadium” is derived from. Stade was a unit of measurement in ancient Greece which modern historians say is the rough equivalent to 600 feet or 200 yards, though the actual length has been a subject of debate for many years. Either way, it represents the length which runners in the Stadion ran to prove themselves as the fastest sprinters in the ancient world.

Interestingly, very little record about the Olympics games during the time of Christ exists. History tells us that the Roman emperor Tiberius, who was emperor during Christ’s life, won the chariot races during the 194th Olympiad in 4 B.C. In 17 A.D., the popular Roman general Germanicus, who was Tiberius’ adopted son and the future father of the third Roman Emperor Caligula, won the chariot races in 17 A.D., presumably around the time Christ was a teenager.

About those chariot races: they were known to attract elite political figures, some of whom won based on true skill, and others who only wanted the appearance of winning to further exert their power and status. During the 211th Olympiad, Emperor Nero, known for his fierce persecution of Christians and rather narcissistic personality, forcibly moved the Olympic games set to take place in 65 A.D. to 67 A.D. so he could compete while on a tour of Greece. He participated in the chariot races (with six more horses than the other competitors), and declared himself the greatest Olympic victor of all time, though historical eyewitness accounts tell a different story. Nero actually nearly died after a severe wreck, but Nero being Nero, he was still declared the winner.

Thankfully, Nero’s title as an Olympic victor and the Olympiad he “won,” which did not adhere to the established chronology of the games, were subsequently stricken from the official Olympic records after his death.

The Olympics grew over the course of 1,200 years until 393 A.D., when Emperor Theodosius I banned all Pagan festivals from the Roman emperor after Christianity became adopted as the state religion. Popular culture and history has long maintained this story of Christianity being to blame for the halt of the Olympic games. However, in recent years, some historians have disputed this account, saying that it was not for religious reasons but rather economic reasons that the games ended when they did. In fact, even after Theodosius’ death, there are still records of Olympic games taking place up until the fifth century. As the administration of Roman Empire evolved, the Olympics could no longer be sponsored by civil funds and instead became sponsored more and more by rich elites of the time. Simply put, the games became too expensive, and no one wanted to pay for them anymore.

The Olympics did not make a return for 1,500 years, until the Athens Olympics in 1896. Over the last 125 years since their reinstatement, the Games have become an integral piece of modern culture and a remnant of ancient history that was revived to great avail. As the Olympics in Tokyo continue over the next week and athletes compete for the gold, the words of St. Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians serve as a pertinent reminder of how the spirit of an Olympian imitates closely that of a Christian:

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Cor 9:24-27).

So let the Games continue! And may the race be run not for a perishable prize, but an imperishable one.


Featured photo: Met Museum, Terracotta Panathenaic prize amphora (jar), ca. 510 B.C. Attributed to the Leagros Group.