Inside the Helidon religious cult

The Australian, August 15, 1999
By Simon Kearney

THE Magnificat Meal Movement fears an explosive birthday celebration next month with their leader likening them to the Branch Davidian cult in Waco, Texas.

Movement leader Debra Geileskey said she identified with the Branch Davidians, who died in a fire and shootout with American authorities six years ago.

She said recent allegations that Waco cult members were actually murdered by United States federal agents served as a warning to the movement.

"They were in a different situation, they had different beliefs, but Christian beliefs. They were in a compound, we are in an open area. They had some embarrassing information that people wanted, we have information but it is spread all over the world," she said. "But the threat is always there ... the righteous are always persecuted."

Mrs Geileskey also revealed beliefs in a global conspiracy ... that a Jewish group controlled world power through an underground, unholy alliance with Masonic Orders.

The Sunday Mail spent a day with Mrs Geileskey at the cult's headquarters in Helidon, near Toowoomba, last week.

Security teams will be hired for the cult's holiest day of the year, September 8, the birthday of the Virgin Mary to whom they are devoted.

The celebration coincides with a vision Mrs Geileskey had that someone resembling her would be burnt at the stake by a priest at night on September 9 in an unknown year. But she denies reports that a suicide pact was planned for that day this year.

As many as 1000 followers from Australia and overseas – jolted by media reports of the suicide pact – plan to descend on Helidon in a show of strength and solidarity.

Police will mount a surveillance operation. Emergency services also plan to be on hand.

"If anything happens it will be an international incident and very embarrassing for Australia," Mrs Geileskey warned.

She says the group feels under threat from the Catholic Church and other organisations, which she would not name.

Mrs Geileskey never goes out unaccompanied. Sometimes she employs bodyguards.

Last week, police were called to eject a prowler from the Helidon site and two others were detected overnight.

The cult's fear is not so much of authorities monitoring their activities, but a lunatic fringe element.

"There's always the chance some loony will turn up," Mrs Geileskey said, as she consulted a security firm about guards and patrols of Helidon.

She claimed someone crept into the sect's main house on Thursday afternoon and ransacked her bedroom.

"Even some of the people in the house don't know where my bedroom is," she said.

"They threw all my underwear all over the floor. Nothing was stolen. It was only my underwear and my bed that they seemed to tear into."

THE Helidon sect is strictly divided into a hierarchical system with one group known as "slaves".

"Slaves are missionaries who've offered to give up one year of their life," Mrs Geileskey said.

"They are placed somewhere in the world for a year. They don't have to pay for it. They are a slave of God through spreading the scripture."

At home base, slaves have special status with reserved seating in the chapel. Some help with mass and they share cooking and cleaning duties.

Slaves wear bright blue robes but if they are part of a mission they can wear bright red.

The slaves are mostly young, although some older people from overseas had taken to the garments. Many have also been missionaries in places such as Mozambique, New Jersey, Paris, Fiji and Peru.

Mrs Geileskey claimed the cult had spread throughout the world, with missionaries in 73 countries, 5million followers and significant but guarded support in sections of the Catholic Church.

In Ireland, she said, they had a strong following. In Asia they already had priests in training.

In Australia the Catholic Church had classified them as "not of God" and they have been rebuffed by the Vatican.

But that does not stop Catholic priests, cardinals and bishops coming from all around the world – or so Mrs Geileskey claims.

The Bishop of Toowoomba, William Morris, has banned mass being celebrated at the cult's base but the ruling has been ignored. Mrs Geileskey says it is her home and no one can stop a priest saying mass there.

During The Sunday Mail's visit an 81-year-old retired Irish priest, Father Francis, held a service lasting from 6-9am.

After that Mrs Geileskey and her team dealt with administration work and morning correspondence.

Letters apparently come from around the world. There was a $3000 printing bill from Manila that The Philippines movement would have to pay, and a letter from a New York priest.

The sect's devotion to God is matched only by their devotion to a bizarre theory that the world is controlled by a group of Jews in alliance with Masons.

"Jews masquerading as Christians are responsible for modernism in the Catholic Church," Mrs Geileskey said.

She has a special devotion to virginity – her favourite saint after the Virgin Mary is a 13-year-old girl who died earlier this century protecting her honour from a rapist.

"I like to take in young girls, to protect their virginity," she said.

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