Most national holidays are times spent relaxing and enjoying the pleasant company of families and friends, but Martin Luther King Day is specially marked to commemorate the life of the great civil rights leader with positive, unselfish social action. King was an African-American pastor, civil rights activist and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize who advocated for racial equality through nonviolent civil disobedience.

Honoring Dr. King’s legacy, the Seventh New Orleans Day of Service, “MLK Day On/Not Off,” will be hosted Monday, Jan. 19 to underscore the need to spend time volunteering to help others and improve neighborhoods. Day On/Not Off is being coordinated through a collaboration of the Archdiocese’s Office of Black Catholic Ministries, Office of Racial Harmony, Office of Catholic Schools, Office of Religious Education, CYO and Young Adult Ministry and Catholic Charities.

“People live in their own little bubbles, but this is a day to put our faith and values into action to make a difference,” said Ansel Augustine, director of the Office of Black Ministries.

Following a morning prayer service led by Archbishop Gregory Aymond at Jesuit High School, 4133 Banks St., volunteer groups will spread out doing community service projects, including planting, painting, repairs and other projects at various sites, including City Park and Second Harvest Food Bank. Last year, more than 350 individuals participated in service projects.

High school student groups, church groups, families, organizations and individuals who want to join in this citywide campaign should register by Monday, Jan. 12 with the Office of Black Ministries at (504) 861-6207 or email bcatholics@arch-no.org.

Fifteen years after King’s assassination, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill to make the third Monday of January a national holiday. The bill passed into law on Nov. 2, 1986. The national Martin Luther King Day of Service was started by former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford and Atlanta Congressman John Lewis who co-authored the King Holiday and Service Act.

The Office of Black Catholic Ministries identifies and fosters the rich diversity of the Black Catholic community in general, and particularly, in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Its mission is to evangelize, highlight, enhance and celebrate the contributions of the Black Catholic community as it shares its gifts in the church and society.

If additional work sites are to be considered for the day of service, contact Shannon Murphy at Volunteer Services, Catholic Charities at (504) 310-6962.

Participants must register in advance by calling (504) 861-6207 or download the forms at obcm.arch-no.org. Packets are due Jan. 12, and space is limited.