Penny Sisson

St. Peter's Episcopal Church
113. S. 9th Street
Oxford, MS 38655
662-234-1269

Penny Sisson is a retired Spanish instructor at the University of Mississippi, and a vocational deacon that coordinates the Spanish language services and Sunday dinner hosted by the St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Oxford, Mississippi. Sisson grew up in Grenada, Mississippi and moved to Oxford in 1979. The first time she noticed an influx of Hispanics was in the early 90s, at which time she started thinking about Hispanic ministry. Her goal was to reach out to the growing population of newcomers, and help them become incorporated into the community. Eighteen years ago she, with the help of a local priest and his wife, a new ESL teacher, began a Spanish language ministry in Oxford. They began with a worship service, English class, and a coffee and dessert hour after the service with support from other local churches. Penny Sisson describes the history of Oxford’s Hispanic community, the activists and community members that have supported the population and enabled their incorporation into the community—from providing legal assistance to medical services for the migrants. Additionally, Sisson discusses the challenges facing the Hispanic population, and the churches and organizations that have worked with the migrants over the years.

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Penny es una instructora jubilada de español de la Universidad de Mississippi, y diácona vocacional que coordina los servicios en español y una cena albergada por la Iglesia Episcopal St. Peter’s en Oxford, Mississippi. Sisson se crió en Grenada, Mississippi y se mudó a Oxford en el año 1979. La primera vez que se dio cuenta que empezaron a llegar hispanos fue a principios de los años 90 cuando ella empezó a pensar en un ministerio hispano. Su meta era contactar a la creciente población de recién llegados, y ayudarlos a integrarse a la comunidad. Hace dieciocho años, con la ayuda del cura local y su esposa, una profesora de Inglés como Segunda Idioma, y con el apoyo de otras iglesias locales empezaron una clase de inglés y una hora de café y postre después del servicio en español. Penny Sisson describe la historia de la comunidad hispana en Oxford y a los activistas y miembros de la comunidad que apoyaron a la población hispana y que facilitaron su integración a la comunidad—proveyendo ayuda legal y servicios médicos para los inmigrantes. Adicionalmente, Sisson discute los retos que enfrenta la población hispana, y las iglesias y organizaciones que han trabajado con los inmigrantes durante los últimos años.

Date of interview:

April 1, 2016

Interviewer:

Simone Delerme

Photographer:

Simone Delerme


There is a feeling in this town. I know some people who are strongly opposed to this group of people being in town. The interesting thing that I always point out, if you gathered everybody up and sent them away from Oxford, our restaurants would probably close. Nobody would be able to take good care of their lawns, because many lawn services use Hispanic people. And construction would come to a halt. And so, I think we, whether we want to admit it or not, I think we have become dependent on Hispanics in the workforce. And so that's an interesting phenomenon, that people want to get rid of a group of people, but at the same time, they're dependent on that group of people for services.
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