PERSONAL: Born in Salem, OR. Education: Loyola University, Chicago, IL, M.A. and Ph.D.; Aquinas Institute of Theology, Ph.D. Religion: Catholic.
ADDRESSES: Office—Therapy and Renewal Associates, 1037 South 102nd St., Seattle, WA 98168.
CAREER: Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration and licensed clinical psychologist. Part-time faculty member at Seattle University, School of Theology and Ministry; co-director of Therapy and Renewal Associates (ministerial counseling center); author, speaker, and workshop leader.
Called to Break Bread?: A Psychological Investigation of 100 Women Who Feel Called to Priesthood in the Catholic Church, Quixote Center (Mt. Rainier, MD), c. 1978.
Word Made Flesh: Scripture, Psychology, and Human Communication, Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1986.
(With John Heagle) Partnership: Women and Men in Ministry, Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1989.
(With John Heagle) Your Sexual Self: Pathway to Authentic Intimacy, Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, IN), 1992.
(With John Heagle) Tender Fires: The Spiritual Promise of Sexuality, Crossroad (New York, NY), 2002.
Contributor to Imagining a New Church: Building a Community of Life, Thomas More Publishing, 2003.
SIDELIGHTS: Fran Ferder is a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration and co-director of Therapy and Renewal Associates (TARA), a Catholic psychotherapy center. She has written several books, three of which were coauthored with Father John Heagle, who team teaches with her at Seattle University and is also co-director of TARA. Ferder's writings have focused on the subjects of women clergy, religious aspects of communication, and religious aspects of sexuality. Her most widely reviewed work is Tender Fires: The Spiritual Promise of Sexuality. In this work, Ferder and Heagle advance traditions within the Catholic Church that do not separate the physical from the spiritual. They suggest that U.S. culture needs to view sexuality as more than genital behavior and identify issues relating to sexuality, including divorce, birth control, and homosexuality, as the greatest challenges faced by the Catholic Church.
In an interview with U.S. Catholic, Ferder said that she and Heagle wrote Tender Fires "to make the human sojourn a little less guilt-ridden around sexuality." She explained that contrary to early Christian writings that separate body and soul, that there is a "best side" of the Catholic tradition that is "incarnational, embodied, fleshed. It's sacramental. It's salt and water and ritual and all of those earthy things. Everyone's included, everyone's got a place at the table." She went on to say that the book has two other important messages. One is that true spiritual awareness requires a related physical awareness, which is linked to the complexities of human relationships. "Sexuality is energy for relationships," she explained. The authors' third goal is to assert that "sexuality is bigger than sex, it's more than genital behavior. In relationships of love and respect, sex ritualizes love."
Tender Fires was greeted warmly by critics, who described it as a unusual, exciting book. In a review for Library Journal, Graham Christian called it "a fascinating and rare thing" with its frank discussion of sexuality and spirituality. He also noted that it is "sufficiently discreet" for young readers. Writing for the National Catholic Reporter, Joan H. Timmerman expressed "real gratitude" in finding such a book, which she said shows the authors' "obvious and passionate love for these ideas." Timmerman suggested that the book might be a helpful tool in the course of meditation, but found that it falls short of giving concrete, real-life examples of how to apply the ideas it promotes. She said that the book "belongs to the comforting genre of 'spiritual reverie.'" In the Catholic New Times, Katie Marshall Flaherty commented that Ferder and Heagle write convincingly and comfortingly. She was most interested by the book's descriptions of Jesus in intimate moments of breaking bread with others, which images stress the importance of forgiveness and compassion and relate to the authors questioning of the church's relationship with those who are gay, divorced, or have non-traditional relationships.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Catholic New Times, January 5, 2003, Katie Marshall Flaherty, review of Tender Fires, p. 18.
Library Journal, October 1, 2002, Graham Christian, review of Tender Fires, p. 104.
National Catholic Reporter, August 30, 2002, Joan H. Timmerman, review of Tender Fires, p. 17.
Social Edge,http://thesocialedge.com/ (December, 2002) Gerry McCarthy, interview with Fran Ferder and John Heagle.*