OTTAWA — Novalis Publishing celebrated its 75th anniversary at Saint Paul University July 7 at a reception to honour its authors, editors and past and present staff.
Novalis began in 1936 when Oblate Father André Guay, who founded the Catholic Centre at the University of Ottawa, began publishing pamphlets to help ordinary Catholics better understand their faith in a post-Depression era.
"No organization can achieve the kind of success Novalis has had in 75 years without truly caring and committed people," said Novalis' publishing director Joe Sinasac.
"From André Guay until now, Novalis benefited from a tremendous amount of wisdom, of passion, of talent, of devotion from its staff writers, editors and many, many friendly collaborators."
Guay recognized the way ordinary Catholics lacked an understanding of their faith, said Celebrate Magazine editor Bernadette Gasslein.
"He did not simply ring his hands or decry it," she said. "In good Oblate style, he found a practical solution, a small publication first in French, later that year in English, that would help people understand what was happening in the Mass in the days when it was celebrated in Latin."
Those pamphlets eventually became the popular Living with Christ and its French counterpart Prions en Église, which "gave people of that time a way to grasp the riches that had been there all along but to which they had no access because of a language barrier posed by the Latin," she said.
Marriage preparation materials were launched in 1944. "Imagine such a project in wartime," Gasslein said.
Celebrate marks its 50th anniversary this year. Novalis, now the largest religious publisher in Canada, produces periodicals, parish resources and trade books in both French and English.
Gasslein said Novalis' projects have "served the Church well and in some way captured that original Oblate missionary impulse" and helped to shape the Church in Canada in a powerful way.
The Catholic Centre changed its name to Novalis in 1968. Saint Paul University owned the publishing house until it sold Novalis to Bayard Canada, which is owned by another religious community, the Pères Augustins de l'Assomption of Quebec, three years ago.
"Seventy-five years later Novalis' mission is still to bring the people close to God and to the Church," said Bayard Canada president Suzanne Spino. "We truly are a Canadian landmark."
Spino stressed that it makes a big difference that Bayard is owned by a religious community. "In our consumer world, the bottom line is often a compelling reason to stop or start a project," she said.
"When your shareholders have a mandate and share a mission it is so much more inspiring and so much more motivating," she said, noting that the support of the Assumptionists has helped the publisher overcome many obstacles.