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From crime to Christ, thanks to sisters and the Eucharist


Avec l'autorisation de Rodrigue Tandu.

Aline Iaschine - published on 02/17/24

A delinquent and drug dealer from the age of 16, Rodrigue Tandu experienced a lightning conversion at Paray-le-Monial before the Blessed Sacrament.

Rodrigue Tandu’s life is far from ordinary. Originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rodrigue Tandu arrived in France at the age of six. After the untimely death of his mother, he settled with his father in Bondy, a crime-ridden suburb of Paris.

During his childhood, Rodrigue went to elementary school in peace. But by middle school and high school, the situation became more complicated, and he fell into a spiral of violence. 

Frequent and violent fights with youths from the housing opposite the school deterred him and his friends from attending classes. No longer attending school, they spent their days on the streets of Bondy. They soon became delinquents, organized burglaries, started using cannabis and, recruited by drug dealers, started dealing. Rodrigue lived like this until he was 21.

A surprising encounter in Bondy

One evening, at around 10 p.m., Rodrigue was getting ready to go clubbing after collecting the day’s takings. Suddenly, he and his friends saw three religious sisters arrive.

“When we saw three white women arrive, we thought they were cops,” Rodrigue Tandu tells Aleteia. “We thought they were setting a trap for us, so we searched them!” But the young people found neither weapons nor microphones on them. “When we found out they really were religious sisters, I felt it in my heart to protect them, because I was the only Catholic among my friends. I told them, ‘Pray for me, but get out of here right away.’ So they left and I went on my way.”

These nuns belonged to the Emmanuel Community and had settled in the neighborhood, in Bondy. Rodrigue did everything he could to avoid them, until one day, after a music festival, he asked a sister to pray with him.

There had been a violent fight, and Rodrigue had been afraid that someone would die and he would go to prison. When he came across the sister, he decided to go into the church and pray with her, and there he felt great peace and found real comfort.

Some time later, as a sign of thanks, Rodrigue accepted the sister’s invitation to go to the shrine of Paray-le-Monial. “I wanted to thank her for praying with me that day, and also because, thanks to her prayers, I hadn’t gone to prison,” he says with a smile.

The pilgrimage to Paray-le-Monial

He set off with a group of pilgrims, with the sisters, and above all, with some supplies. “I was addicted to cannabis, so I had to bring enough to last the five days,” he jokes. “On the bus, the sisters were all happy, but I was already high. When I arrived in Paray-le-Monial, I noticed that the people were different. Everyone was smiling. I wasn’t used to that. I thought they were actually laughing at me.”

Basilique de Paray-le-Monial – fr

Rodrigue was immediately drawn to the Blessed Sacrament, exposed to welcome pilgrims. “I didn’t know about the Blessed Sacrament. I saw a round thing, and through that round thing I felt a great force calling me, a gentleness and love that gripped me. As I got closer, I started to cry. I knelt down and asked for forgiveness. In the face of such love and gentleness, I didn’t feel worthy,” he recounts.

Afterwards, Rodrigue heard an inner voice encouraging him to throw away everything he’d brought with him. “So I threw out the cannabis. At first, I thought I could sell it to the guys who were there, but in the end I threw it away. And since that day, I’ve never smoked again,” he recounts.

That grace that enabled him to make a radical choice. From that moment on, Rodrigue went from confessional to confessional, praying long hours in front of the Blessed Sacrament, attending Mass and being filled with an immense joy.

Back to Bondy

“I came back to Bondy on fire. I was singing hallelujahs all over the neighborhood. I told myself I’d never sin again, and that from then on I’d become a saint. I wanted to tell my buddies my secret, but they thought I was starting to lose it.” Rodrigue began to feel out of step with them. So, he decided to distance himself, pay off his debts ,and get out of the world of crime, violence and drugs.

Thanks to one of the sisters, he began the Emmanuel Community’s School of Charity and Mission. At the age of 24, he became a specialized educator with the Apprentis d’Auteuil, then with the Le Rocher association.

Today, aged 43, Rodrigue is married with three children. Thanks to his life’s journey and his professional experience, he co-founded an association called “Réseau des deux cités” (“Network of the Two Cities”). The goal is to bring together people from different backgrounds—big entrepreneurs and people from underprivileged neighborhoods—to help, with God’s help, hundreds of young people from the suburbs to radically change their lives, as he did.

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