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: A holy Church begins with you

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A holy Church begins with you

Bishop Rodriguez challenges Catholics to realize their call to holiness

Roxanne King

Even as the Catholic Church deals with the disgrace and shame of the clergy sexual abuse scandal and moves forward with repentance and renewal, it is challenging as faithful not to be disheartened and discouraged.

The answer to this situation is to follow the Scriptural mandate to holiness all Catholic Christians have been given, Denver auxiliary Bishop Jorge Rodriguez told attendees of the May 17-19 Aspen Catholic conference titled, “The Encounter: New Life in Jesus Christ.”

As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘be holy, because I [am] holy,’” the bishop said, quoting I Peter 1:15-16.

“Holiness,” the bishop asserted, “…is the only thing that will get our Church through this crisis. It’s a transformation that we all need.”

The annual conference, an initiative of Father John Hilton, pastor of St. Mary Parish in Aspen where the event was held, drew people from the Archdiocese of Denver and from outside the state to strengthen their relationship with Jesus Christ, deepen their understanding of the Catholic faith, renew their spirit in the beauty of Colorado’s high country, and return home equipped to better share their faith.

Despite the current crisis, which is evidence the Church is comprised of sinners, every Sunday when professing the Creed, Catholics say, “I believe in the holy Catholic Church.”

“We say publicly that we believe the Catholic Church is holy. Do we mean it?” Bishop Rodriguez mused before affirming: “The Catholic Church, like it or not, will always be holy for three reasons.”

First: “Jesus Christ is the author of holiness and he is the head of the Church. … Jesus is the Church with all of us. The holiness of Jesus fills the whole Church.”

Second: “The Church is the only institution in the world that possesses all the means of sanctification left by Christ for his Church to sanctify its members and to make them holy.”

Third: “There are many, many holy people in the Church, both in heaven and here on earth.”

Holiness…is the only thing that will get our Church through this crisis. It’s a transformation that we all need.”

Slain STEM School shooting hero Kendrick Castillo is an example of a holy, young Catholic, Bishop Rodriguez said.

“He gave his life for his classmates. If this is not holiness, what is?” the bishop said about the 18-year-old who was killed May 7 when he tackled a teen shooter.

Servant of God Julia Greeley, a former slave known for her acts of charity and generosity from her own meager means to others in early Denver, and St. John Paul II, who in emphasizing the universal call to holiness of all Christians beatified and canonized more people than the combined total of his predecessors in the five centuries before him, were among others Bishop Rodriguez mentioned who comprise “the great cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) of those believers who have preceded us into God’s kingdom. Additionally, there are countless “next-door saints,” he said, using a term coined by Pope Francis to describe those unknowns of heroic virtue among our family, friends and neighbors.

Rodriguez said, because the Scriptures say, Christ so loved the Church and gave himself up for her to make her holy (Eph 5:25-26).

“‘The Church is holy because it proceeds from God, who is holy,’” the bishop said, quoting Pope Francis’ Oct. 2, 2013, general audience address. “’It is not holy by our merits; we are not able to make her holy. It is God, the Holy Spirit, who in his love makes the Church holy.’

“The Catholic Church is and will be holy, even though some of her members still need repentance and conversion,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “Great sinners don’t make our Church unholy, but make the Church a factory of saints, where sinners are made holy by the power of God.”

Holiness is our deepest longing because we were created to be holy, the bishop said. But the only way to realize that call is to submit to God and allow him to transform us, he said, using the scriptural analogy of clay taking shape in a potter’s hands.

“We cannot deserve, produce, gain, create, or make holiness,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “Only God in his gratuitousness and infinite love can make a saint of you. … Holiness is pure gift, is grace.”

Catholics believe holiness is real — that grace received through the sacraments, prayer and reading Scripture, infuses and transforms the believer into a new creation, Bishop Rodriguez said.

“Salvation is real,” the bishop said. “Pope Francis [warns] about a heresy that has been in the Church since apostolic times under different appearances — Gnosticism. It is a doctrine of salvation by knowledge, reducing Christianity to doctrine [or] text, to something intellectual.”

In doing so, Gnosticism loses the flesh of the incarnation and reduces Jesus to his message, Bishop Rodriguez said. Likewise, Protestant theologian Rudolf Bultmann, a major figure of 20th-century biblical studies and liberal Christianity, promoted “demythologizing” the Gospel to attract modern adherents.

As a result, “people lost faith that these things really happened,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “[Bultmann] did tremendous damage to Christianity.”

The Apostles, however, insisted on the truth of Jesus’ incarnational reality, the bishop said, noting the First Letter of St. John proclaims: What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands, concerns the Word of life — for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you.

Great sinners don’t make our Church unholy, but make the Church a factory of saints, where sinners are made holy by the power of God.”

“Our Christian faith is not a body of doctrines, not a code of conduct, not an ethical idea, not an elaborated ritual,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “It is not even a community. It is a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. It is an event. It is a person. It is an event that happens. In the Gospel everything begins with an encounter with Jesus. Have we encountered Jesus?”

Jesus may be encountered through prayer, Scripture and the sacraments, Bishop Rodriguez said.

“These are three gifts God has given to us to open us to holiness,” he said. “These are the Catholic ways to have a personal encounter with Jesus that is real.”

Regarding prayer: “The best way to start is to become aware of Jesus presence. … prayer [then] becomes a personal encounter, otherwise it’s an intellectual exercise.”

Regarding Scripture: “It’s not about information … it’s about God telling his love for me.”

Regarding sacraments: “The sacramental life is God touching me with his holiness.

“In the Catholic Church we believe that Jesus Christ didn’t want us to only have a recorded memory of him as in the Scriptures, but a living presence among us. He said: ‘I will be with you until the end of time.’”

I dare you to allow God to make a great saint of you.”

Just as Jesus was present with the people of Galilee healing and forgiving them, so he is present with us today through the sacraments, Bishop Rodriguez said.

“That’s why he instituted the sacraments. Each sacrament is a merciful and sweet touch of Jesus in our lives,” the bishop said. “This is what we mean when we say he makes us holy through the sacraments.”

So why isn’t there more holiness in our lives and more saints in the Church?

“God wants to work with our clay … but to make a saint is a question of love,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “Love cannot be imposed, it cannot be mandated.”

Rather, one must cooperate with God’s grace to become the saint God desires.

“Last March, Pope Francis wrote an apostolic exhortation on our call to be holy, Rejoice and Be Glad,” Bishop Rodriguez said. “His thesis is that we have been made for happiness, and true happiness and joy only comes from a holy life.”

Holiness doesn’t mean perfection, performing miracles or that we are not tempted, Bishop Rodriguez said. Rather, it means loving God and one’s neighbor by doing the everyday tasks of life with love.

The answer for times of persecution and crisis in the Church has always been the holiness of the people of God, Bishop Rodriguez said.

“I dare you to allow God to make a great saint of you,” he challenged.

“This is our response to the Church crisis today: holy Catholic men and women,” he asserted. “We will never give up and we will fight against discouragement and loss of hope. Jesus is with us as he promised.”

Featured image by Roxanne King