What is the DISC Conference?
The Annual DISC Conference is the premier showcase for the use of information technology within the Catholic Church at both local and national levels.
Who Should Attend?
IT directors, Administrators, Clergy, Staff and others who explore and expand the use of information technology in support of the mission of the church.
It all started in 1985
The topic of computer use by Dioceses in the United States was discussed at many DFMC (Diocesan Fiscal Managers Conference) conventions in the early 1980’s. There was a great deal of interest in meeting to discuss mutual computer applications and developments. So, in December 1981, Ed Faraday of the Diocese of Harrisburg invited all dioceses to a seminar called S.O.S. (Sharing Our Systems). The seminar was highly successful drawing 83 participants from 51 dioceses.
In the next few years the idea of forming a permanent computer user group was discussed at the DFMC conventions but questions such as the scope of standardization, hiring programmers, etc., were never resolved.
However, the dream of sharing software and ideas would not die in the heart of Fr. John Peters of the Diocese of El Paso. In order to get started, in 1985, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee offered to host a group of IBM minicomputer users which became known as DICUG (Diocesan IBM Computer Users Group). The idea was to actually show how Milwaukee used the equipment and application software. Any software developed by Milwaukee was offered free of charge with no warranty. Other dioceses offered their software also.
The first year there was a group of 15, representing 11 dioceses, who participated in a one and a half day conference. The cost was $60, which included food and lodging at the Retreat Center in Milwaukee. The hospitality room consisted of a refrigerator stocked with beer, soda, sausage and cheese. At the conclusion of the meeting and after a supper a one of Milwaukee’s many German restaurants, it was decided to meet the following year, again in Milwaukee.
The 1986 conference in Milwaukee expanded to 25 participants from 14 dioceses and the 1987 conference in La Crosse, Wisconsin, was attended by 22 people from 16 dioceses. The 1988 Conference was held at Orange California. This was the first conference that we relied heavily on software vendors for presentations. Fewer dioceses attended in Orange so, at the end of the meeting we discussed the direction for the group and it was decided to open up the conference and invite the PC and non-IBM dioceses.
San Antonio offered to host the 1989 conference. Sue Forbrich along with Wally Cotton did an outstanding job of promoting the conference which was attended by 52 people representing 39 dioceses. There were concurrent sections offering mid-range and PC topics. Attendees enjoyed the interaction with other dioceses using all types of equipment; the scope of the conference was changed permanently. There was considerable discussion about dropping “IBM” from our name. In the past our conferences consisted of three parts. We relied heavily on IBM to provide a keynote speaker and workshop leaders, our own members to present their favorite programs to share, and the host diocese department heads to explain how they used computers in their operations. This reliance on IBM might have to change if “IBM” was dropped. It was decided to keep our acronym DICUG with the name meaning Diocesan Computer User Group.
The 1990 Chicago Conference also drew well with 53 attendees representing 35 dioceses. Our group was welcomed by Cardinal Bernardin. This was the first conference that was held entirely at a hotel. At the planning meeting on the last day, Phoenix volunteered to play host for 1991. Also, a committee of 5 people was chosen to assist Phoenix in putting together the program. Jim Kavanagh of Buffalo volunteered to be program chair. We also talked about formally organizing our group and discussed the possibility of paying dues.
During the summer of 1990 the Phoenix diocese underwent a reorganization and was unable to host the 1991 conference. However, Jim was able to invite everyone to Buffalo. Much to our pleasure a new record attendance of 72 people representing 42 dioceses attended. At the first meeting on Sunday, May 19th, the members approved the by-laws which were patterned after the DFMC by-laws. A board of 6 members were to be elected and take office on the last day of the conference. Dues were set at $50 and the name was changed to DISC (Diocesan Information Systems Conference).
In the following years conferences were held in Anchorage (’92), Philadelphia (’93), San Bernardino (’94), St. Louis (’95), San Diego (’96) and Colorado Springs (’97), Biloxi (’98), San Antonio (’99), Colorado Springs (’00) , Toronto/ London, Ontario (’01), Bloomington, MN (’02), St. Pete Beach, FL (’03), Williamsburg, VA (’04), Raleigh, NC (’05), Pittsburgh, PA (’06), Monterey, CA (’07), San Antonio, TX (’08),
The 2009 economic crisis adversely affected many dioceses. As a result an unprecidented number of dioceses cut all travel expenses. Members who had attended numerous conferences in the past were calling to tell us they could not attend. The board of directors made several moves to secure scholarship funds and the 2009 conference in New Orleans, LA was deemed a success.
In 2010, the DISC conference returned to Canada for the first time in nine years. This year, the board of directors made bold moves to improve the exhibitor show. The exhibitor room was filled to capacity with several new exhibitor names and categories represented. 2010 also represented the first time online conference registration and online membership renewal was available. The membership appreciated the chance to register/renew via credit card and the $50 early bird registration discount garnered a large number of early registrations which made planning the conference much easier.
In 2012, DISC returned to the east coast in Arlington VA. This setting next to our nation’s capital was a fitting venue for a conference on Information and Security. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Antonin Scalia opened this conference with an extraordinary key note address. Split conference tracks were introduced, offering both Technical and Management views on a topic. One of our more highly attended conferences in recent years, DISC 2012 also introduced the very successful hands-on technical track for our pre-conference. Members voted to expand the existing six member board to nine positions.
In 2013, DISC headed south again to Dallas, TX. The theme this year was based on how IT and ministries work together. We had an increased vendor activity and sponsorships and again were able to present a great conference for all as well as a dinner and tour of the newly opened Perot Museum of Science and Nature. Our members also had the opportunity to race armadillos and do some line dancing at the Networking Banquet. In 2013 DISC was invited to sit in with the Communications and Media conference in the future.
2014 celebrated the 30th year of DISC. Hosted by the Diocese of San Jose, CA., the conference was held in the in the heart of Silicon valley which allowed for some wonderful opportunities for DISC members to tour several EBC’s for the Pre-Con and the outing was held at the Computer History museum.
In 2015 the conference was held in Alexandria, LA., the home of our Episcopal Moderator and some great fellowship and wonderful Cajun food. This year was the first year we w ere able to have a Key Note speaker each day of the conference and were also able to have entertainment at both our outing at the Kent Plantation and the Networking Banquet.
In 2016 the 32nd Annual DISC conference will be held in Atlanta, GA. The conference, held at the JWMarriott Buckhead, took on the theme Igniting Ministry Through Technology. The outing and networking were combined this year to afford our attendees the experience of the GA Aquarium and a wonderful dinner by Wolfgang Puck.