Detroit to host conference for diocesan technology leaders

DETROIT — While you wouldn’t expect an institution as ancient as the Catholic Church to be on the cutting edge of technology, sharing the Gospel through the ages has required just that.

From the parchment and scrolls of biblical times to the printing press and emergence of digital media, the Church’s use of modern communication has been critical to its mission of saving souls.

Making sure the Church is continually positioned to do so is the goal of the annual Diocesan Information Systems Conference (DISC), which the Archdiocese of Detroit will host June 19-21 at the Embassy Suites in Livonia.

Marco DeCapite, who advises Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron on matters of technology for the Archdiocese of Detroit, has helped spearhead the organization of the conference, during which technology leaders from dioceses across the country will gather for three days of talks, fellowship and idea-sharing on ways to better utilize the tools of the day in service of the Gospel.

“In the time of Christ, the disciples walked the roads. The infrastructure was there; the roads and waterways constructed by the Roman Empire enabled the disciples to get to the towns and share the good news,” said DeCapite, whose title is Adjunct to the Moderator of the Curia for Technology for the Archdiocese of Detroit. “Later, it was the printing press, and now we have the means to communicate almost instantaneously at the speed of light.

“This conference is about how we harness the tools and technology of the day to help people encounter, grow and witness to Christ,” DeCapite said.

The idea for a national conference of Catholic technology users began in 1985, when the Archdiocese of Milwaukee hosted a forum for early adopters of the first IBM minicomputers. Since then, the location — as well as the technology — has changed almost every year.

Now in its 34th year, the conference is expected to draw participants from nearly 40 dioceses across the U.S. and Canada.

While the Archdiocese of Detroit is recognized nationally as a leader in evangelization, it’s also quickly earning a reputation as a technology pioneer. For instance, Detroit is one of a handful of dioceses to have technology advisers at the cabinet level, working closely with the archbishop to improve efficiencies and provide shared services.

For instance, one challenge that’s being addressed at the parish level is that of the “roaming Catholic” — families belonging to more than one parish, or attending multiple parishes for ministries, sacraments or services. Instead of having sacramental and family records housed at multiple parishes on multiple systems, the archdiocese has offered parishes the use of a single, “cloud-based” solution to securely house and share data across multiple entities.

“That really empowers us to simplify communications with these families and not duplicate efforts,” DeCapite said.

Other efforts include the use of Yammer, a Facebook-like social media tool through which parish and school staff can communicate with one another, ask questions and get feedback from Chancery officials, and coordinate services.

“We’re really trying to solve problems by listening to the needs of parishes and to allow them to collaborate with each other. Instead of just one-way communications out to parishes, we’re able to test an idea and say, ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’” DeCapite said.

The third day of the DISC conference — June 21 — is a “parish day,” which will include presentations for parishes on a host of technology-related topics, including “IT on a Shoestring Budget,” “Telephone System Case Studies” and “Beyond Sunday: How Technology Can Help Us Unleash the Gospel and Become 24/7 Catholics.”

With data breaches constantly in the news, the conference will also include a presentation by a senior attorney with the Federal Communications Commission on privacy and identity protection, DeCapite said.

“Cyber security is really essential for parishes. There are many risks, from cyber-extortion to ensuring parish data is kept secure and private. It’s really important for parishes to know what they’re up against,” DeCapite said.

Parish staff can register for just the parish day at $50 per person.

Other “wins” for the archdiocese’s technology arm in the past few years have included a move to a more technology-connected Chancery building, a new online giving platform, a simplified accounting system and “single-sign on” collaboration solutions such as Box and Smartsheet for securely sharing files and coordinating ministries and projects.

While the average parishioner might not always be aware of these advances, DeCapite is quick to point to ways the digital sphere can contribute to saving time, money and resources — resources that can in turn be leveraged for more effective evangelization.

“Some of the things we’re doing help reduce busywork and cut administrative costs. If we’re working together to solve those problems, we can then focus on the real need to use technology to nurture community and personal relationships, rather than replace them,” DeCapite said. “That’s all part of moving from maintenance to mission: to help facilitate each soul’s journey toward heaven.”

Diocesan Information Systems Conference 2018

What: The 34th annual Diocesan Information Systems Conference, “Unleashing the Gospel Through Technology,” hosted by the Archdiocese of Detroit.

When: June 19-21, 2018. The conference’s third day will be a “parish day,” during which parish leaders can hear presentations on a variety of technology and IT-related topics.

Where: Embassy Suites, 19525 Victor Pkwy, Livonia

Register: Registration for just the June 21 “parish day” is $50 per person; for information, visit