As their community grew, Italians felt the need to have churches of their own. Part of the service in the existing churches was conducted in a non-Italian language. The control of the clergy by the Irish and the lack of intimacy with the priests during confessions made the church seem a hollow institution in the new land.
In 1884 a delegation headed by Paul Russo approached the most Reverend Lawrence McMahon, Bishop of Hartford, to express the need of New Haven’s 1500 Italians for a national church. In 1885 a series of Italian priests, with the bishop’s approval, began to minister to the Italian community’s needs.
Father Riviaccio, who had previously served Italians in South America, conducted services in a hall on Wallace Street contributed by the pastor of St. Patrick’s Church at Grand Avenue and Wallace Street. Then temporary quarters were found at Union Avenue near Chapel Street. Later the church occupied the seventh floor of a building at Chapel and State Streets. Finally the congregation moved into a small Lutheran Church at Wooster and Brewery Streets. The edifice was purchased in 1889 and dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel, in honor of the Patron Saint of Gioia Sannitica, the place of origin of many of the worshipers. St. Michael’s was dedicated on February 3, 1895; the present site and building were bought from the Baptists in 1899.