The Netherlands has 700 buildings constructed as religious houses - only 150 are still in use. The Netherlands Conference of Religious last year wrote to the Bishops about their decline, saying that they had to be obedient to the signs of the times which seem to indicate that their way of life is coming to an end, that there must be a new form, less emphasis on priests, the embracing of differences as different aspects of God, emphasis on equality and diversity etc.
It is true that we should be attentive to the signs of the times; but they do not necessarily tell us to close up and sell all the convents. The orders that are growing are characterised by the wearing of a distinctive habit - whether in the convent or on the street - and by solid, orthodox teaching and devotional life. Schepens says:
"You see growth in those orders that emphasize the Pope, the Eucharist and Mary. Among the religious there was always a lot of support for progressive movements [...] These would lead to an attractive Church, these were the future. Well, it seems not [...] not that there's so much growth in traditional orders, but they're the only ones growing at all."One example mentioned in the article is the "Blauwe Zusters" (Blue Sisters) who are from the congregation of "Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará" which was founded in Argentina. They work particularly among children and young families and founded a new community at Heiloo in the diocese of Haarlem a couple of years ago, operating the diocesan missionary centre. The sisters lead monthly walks for teenagers - a simple but effective idea. Fortunately, the diocese was able to purchase a beautiful convent building for them.
Many thanks to Paul from Catechese Savio for posting a link to this article in the combox.