For many Catholics in the developed West, the image of a young, habited nun teaching young children is an image of a bygone era — a remnant of the 1950s.
Though there are men and women religious living the authentic expression of their religious order's tenets, for the most part the glory days of the great orders has waned. Orders like the Franciscans and the Jesuits have strayed far from their founders' intentions and many of the great female teaching orders vacated schools in favor of worldly causes.
All that has been done to the detriment of souls and the Church as a whole. Younger religious communities pop up but they're often quashed by bishops who have no understanding or appreciation of the vowed religious life.
In some cases, if the bishop is favorable to a new religious community, he places them at the mercy of diocesan officials who don't share the bishop's enthusiasm. The communities get a start and are erected ad experimentum — as an experiment — but after the community spends five or so years attempting to win the favor of hostile chancery cretins, they get shut down because the bishop is told it made no progress.
Chancery bigwigs and corrupt parish priests ask the members of these religious communities, "What can you do that we can't do?" But the very question betrays either their lack of understanding regarding religious life or outright hostility to it.
Religious communities infected with the theology of the Charismatic Movement are frequently promoted because they offer a happy-clappy feelings-based Catholicism that's not introspective enough to be a threat.
Female orders tend to have it slightly easier than male orders because they don't "threaten" the diocesan status quo, a curious type of misogyny exercised by corrupt Church leaders.
But throughout the history of the Church, the Holy Spirit has granted the charism of founding religious communities in spite of corrupt, evil prelates attempting to stomp them out.
In the Gospel of St. Luke, after Our Lord's triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, the pharisees were chiding Him for the praises the people were heaping upon him, "Master, rebuke thy disciples. To whom he said: I say to you, that if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out."
To see more on the decline of the religious orders, watch The Download—Religious Demise.