Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord: A Resource for Guiding the Development of Lay Ecclesial Ministry addresses issues that have been on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' agenda since 1980. At that time, in Called and Gifted, the bishops wrote that they welcomed the gift of "lay persons who have prepared for professional ministry in the Church." Such people serve as pastoral associates, directors of religious education, youth ministry, liturgy and music, school principals, and in numerous other roles. Starting in 1995, a subcommittee of the Committee on the Laity focused its attention on the theology of lay ecclesial ministry, the preparation and formation of lay ecclesial ministers, and their identity and relationship within the Church. It is that subcommittee which prepared Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord. Co-Workers in the Vineyard is similar to the two recent USCCB documents which are concerned with the preparation of priests and deacons (Plan for Priestly Formation and National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States). There is, however, one very important distinction: Co-Workers does not have the force of Church law as do the other two, which are based on universal Church documents. As its subtitle indicates, Co-Workers is a resource, which offers guidance but has no binding authority. The document has two major parts: (1) Foundations, which describes the new realities and explains the theological context and the Church's teachings for lay ecclesial ministry, and (2) Pastoral Applications, which explores how people are drawn to lay ecclesial ministry, prepared (formed) and authorized for it, and includes some suggestions for responding to their role as church employees. The section on formation is the longest in the document and emphasizes the necessity of human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral formation as well as ongoing formation.