Saint Paul University sells Novalis

  • July 8, 2008

{mosimage}OTTAWA - Saint Paul University is ending its 73-year history with Novalis by selling Canada's largest Catholic book publisher to a company connected with multinational corporation Bayard Presse.

The pontifical university announced the sale on July 3 to all its 25 or so staff, shortly before issuing a press release. Currently employees of Saint Paul University, they will be laid off on Oct. 1. An unknown number of them will be offered positions with the new Novalis at its offices in Montreal and Toronto.

“For some time now we have tried to find a way to develop further the mission of Novalis Publishing,” said Fr. Dale Schlitt, OMI, the university rector, in the press release.

“We have examined several options and it has become clear that we need to assign the activities of Novalis to others in order to assume the long-term viability and the vitality of its mission.”

The university did not disclose the sale price to Bayard Presse Canada, a Canadian offshoot of the France-based publisher. However, it said the money would be invested in an endowment fund for the university. Officials from Saint Paul and Bayard did not return phone calls from The Catholic Register by press time.

Novalis was started on Dec. 8, 1935, by Fr. André Guay, OMI, and has been part of Saint Paul ever since. The university is under the direction of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate.

Novalis' mission has been to “spread the Good News of Jesus Christ,” according to its web site. It does this through the publication of books, periodicals, brochures and audio-visual resources that attempt to work through contemporary culture “in a spirit of ecumenical openness, while remaining faithful to the Scriptures and tradition.”

Novalis is perhaps best known as the publisher of Living With Christ, the Catholic missal used widely in church liturgies in Canada and the United States. In French, the missal is published as Prion en Eglise.

But Novalis also publishes other periodicals such as Celebrate, an award-winning magazine for those interested in liturgy. And its stable of authors include Jean Vanier, Reginald Bibby, John Dalla Costa, retired Sen. Doug Roche, Dr. Moira McQueen, executive director of the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute, and Newfoundland novelist Maura Hanrahan.

In recent years, Novalis operated in partnership with Bayard Presse Canada. Bayard ran distribution and marketing offices in Montreal (in French) and Toronto (in English) while the Novalis editorial offices were located at Saint Paul.

Bayard Presse Canada is 13-per-cent owned by Bayard of France, with the majority ownership belonging to the Assumptionist Fathers of Quebec City. It also publishes children's periodicals chirp, chickaDEE and Owl, along with Owlkids Books.

The international company is present in 18 countries, publishes about 150 magazines and periodicals plus book publishers. Among its holdings are Catholic Digest and Twenty-third Publications in the United States, the French daily newspaper La Croix and Pèlerin, the fourth largest weekly newsmagazine in France.

Schlitt acknowledged that some employees will be out of work when Novalis closes its Ottawa office. “The Saint Paul University administration really finds it difficult seeing that some may be out of work,” said Chantal Beauvais, vice-rector administration for Saint Paul.

“We will, however, assure that they will have access to and be able to benefit from the services of a human resources consultant in order to make sure that they can return as rapidly as possible to work in a related area or elsewhere.”

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