Demons, doomsday, fear: My life living in a cult

A TOOWOOMBA mother says four years after leaving a Helidon religious sect, she and her children are still feeling the effects.

Allison Nelson claims her 14-year involvement in the Magnificat Meal Movement, which is still operating in Helidon, left her without a support network and with issues of self-worth.

She said several of her children who grew up in the environment are undergoing counselling as a result.

The MMM, which Debra Burslem started in 1986 as a Catholic Church offshoot, has been widely described as a cult.

However, its members say they are free to come and go as they please in a happy environment.


Mrs Nelson lived with her family in the community, rather than living on the site of the church with the 'Slaves of the Eucharist' members, but visited the church on an almost daily basis for years after a family member asked her to join.

"I was drawn to it, because it was all ridgy-didge Catholic Church stuff, but there was more active stuff," she said.

"When you want to be in a group of people, you try your best to fit in, to do what they want you to do.

"It was very controlling. There's a lot of demon fears.

"First of all, you have to take a group of people and take everything away from them that they know, and then you have to alienate them against each other to a certain extent.

"It's not about friends, we're here for service.

"You are (encouraged to cut off ties), unless they have money."

Mrs Nelson said after leaving the church four years ago, she was left without any friends outside the church.

"We came out, and the kids and I had no one.

"I used to spend hours and hours just crying in my room because I didn't know what to do.

"Long-term, I find with my kids, the biggest thing is self-worth. It was very subtle."

Mrs Nelson's 14-year-old daughter Gabrielle said school was difficult for her.

"The other kids always thought I was a weirdo because I was in a weird cult.

"I wasn't allowed to do anything with them or associate with them.

"We were always considered to be the higher ones - we were God's chosen ones, that's what (Ms Burslem) would call us.

"She said when doomsday hit, we'll be alright but everyone else will die."

The Chronicle attempted to contact Debra Burslem through the MMM website for comment.

She did not respond, but several current members defended the movement.

"It's important to realise that everyone is free to come and go as they please - for those who have made their choice to leave do so of their own free will," Helidon resident and member Philomena Gilson wrote.

"We are free to have our own lives, homes, cars, bank accounts etc.

"It's our main focus to sing praises to God and to be happy."

MMM Background

  • Founder Debra Burslem told followers she had visions from the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.
  • The 'meal' in the name refers to the Eucharist.
  • Followers were told that Christ's Second Coming would occur in Helidon.
  • Debra Burslem has sold her Helidon property and now resides largely in the United States.

Topics:  cult editors picks religion

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