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Founded as The Catholic Centre of the University of Ottawa in 1936 by Father Andre Guay, a member of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and professor, its focus has been practical and easy-to-understand resources to help the average person understand the fundamentals of Christian life. Its early innovations continue to thrive to this day. Prie avec l'Eglise and Pray with the Church were missalettes founded in 1936 to encourage the everyday Catholic's participation in Mass. Those two monthly publications evolved into today's Prions en Eglise and Living With Christ, and the annual Sunday Missal, all of which are still used by hundreds of thousands of Catholics today. The Sunday Missal has sold over six million copies since its inception in 1986.

Another innovation was the development of the marriage preparation course for Catholics that covered not only the religious aspects of marriage, but also included useful information on finances, legal questions, sexuality and family life. This well-rounded foundation for Christian marriage was adopted by both the Anglican and United Churches of Canada in the late 1940s and is now available in 16 languages in 25 countries. From these solid foundations, Novalis has expanded to books and other resources for schools and parish life.

In 1969, the organization’s named changed to Novalis – a Latin word easily pronounced in both English and French meaning “cleared land ready for sowing” – which is reflected in its logo of a buried letter “N” sprouting a small plant. In 2008, the university sold its publishing arm to its business partner, Bayard Canada, owned by the Augustinian Fathers of the Assumption. Since
then, Novalis has maintained offices in Toronto and Montreal and continues to publish a wide variety of materials in both official languages.

Among Novalis’s critically acclaimed authors are historian Mark McGowan, Nobel Prize nominee and former senator, Douglas Roche, humanitarian Jean Vanier, best-selling author Sister Joan Chittister, academic and journalist Michael Higgins, spiritual writer Jean Monbourquette and lecturer, translator and writer Irma Zaleski.

Today, Novalis continues to publish a wide variety of books, resources and periodicals. We publish approximately 30 titles in each language a year focusing on spiritual development, the relationship between faith and culture and ethics in the modern age. Our annual Sunday Missal still sells almost 300,000 copies each year and is complemented by a youth missal for younger Catholics. Parish and school resources include sacramental preparation, teaching and student materials for Catholic education, biblical study aids, church history and inspirational texts for day-to-day living. Finally our periodicals include Living with Christ (standard and large print editions) for laypeople, Celebrate! for pastoral ministers and religious educators, and The Ecumenist, a scholarly quarterly that examines the relationship between religion, culture and society.