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Brief History

Founding and First Publication

At the very end of 1935, Father Andre Guay, a professor and one of the members of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate, founded the Catholic Centre of the University of Ottawa, inspired by his religious order’s work in the Catholic Action movement throughout the Depression. He saw a need for greater understanding of the fundamentals of Christian life and wanted to find solutions that were both practical and within reach of the general public. This approach made the university a centre for people of all kinds, enabling it reach beyond its purely academic boundaries. An inspired and creative thinker, Father Guay saw an opportunity to move from theory to practice and reach as many people as possible by creating useful tools and keeping prices low. The centre’s first publication was a missalette written in French and English created to enable Catholics attending Mass, then said in Latin, to have a deeper understanding of it and their faith. The two publications, now called Prions en Eglise and Living with Christ, thrive to this day and, complemented by the addition of the Sunday Missal and Sunday Missal for Young Catholics, still form the foundation for much of our organization’s success and connection with Canadian Catholics.

A Second Innovation

Not quite a decade after the introduction of the missalette, the centre pioneered the development of a marriage preparation program. The program first appeared in 1944 in French, with the English version debuting in early 1945. It focused not just on the religious and ceremonial aspects of marriage but also looked at all the human realities of a life, incorporating information about finances, legal questions, family life, psychology and sexuality. The program was soon adopted by the Anglican and United Churches of Canada and to this day is available in 16 different languages in 25 countries around the world. Other sacramental preparation, parish and educational resource materials followed and created one of the major streams of publication for the company.

Unique and Specialized Magazines

In 1940, Father Guay launched a homiletic service for francophone priests, which became Rassembler in 1971. An English service followed in 1961 and today it continues to serve pastoral ministers across the country as Celebrate!, expanding beyond the Sunday readings to incorporate discussion on a wide range of challenges facing the modern parish.

Name and Ownership Changes

In 1969, The Catholic Centre changed its name to Novalis, a Latin word meaning “cleared land ready for sowing” and a word easily pronounced in French or English.  In 2008, Bayard Canada, which had been associated with Novalis as a business partner handling production, sales, marketing and distribution since 2000, purchased the Novalis trademark and brought it under its own banner. However, Novalis remains under the guidance of a religious community as Bayard is an organization instituted and still run by the Augustinian Fathers of the Assumption.

Books, Authors and the Future

The company published many books over the years including the best-selling Les Costello: Canada’s Flying Father, by Charlie Angus; Christian Meditation: Your Daily Practice by Laurence Freeman, OSB; Theology for Teachers by Ian Knox; Religion and Alienation by Gregory Baum and The Wisdom of the Heart by Joan Chittister. Many of these books have won awards over the years from organizations such as the Catholic Press Association of the United States and Canada. In the digital age, Novalis is publishing books in both print and e-book formats, has a robust website and is developing Apps to round out its  ongoing efforts to connect with and support Canadian Catholics.

Read Novalis, The First 75 years