The female religious orders in Poland followed a similar upward trajectory, though the increases were not so dramatic. To the ninety-five houses in existence by the mid-seventeenth century, sixteen were added during the second half of the century, and a further thirty-two in the first half of the eighteenth century. These orders were eminently practical in their orientation. They included the Ursulines, known for their teaching, the Sisters of Mercy, who cared for the sick, and the Sisters of the Life of Mary, who originated in Lithuania and were established in 1737-39 with the aim of converting Jewish women and neophytes.
The first serious blow to the organization of the regular clergy was the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, an event which had an especially grave impact on teaching institutions in Poland - even though the Jesuits survived without papal sanction in the then Polish territories of Byelorussia. Further damage was inflicted in the 1780s by the Josephist suppressions in Galicia, which had been awarded to Austria in the first partition. As a result, the population of the regular male clergy was reduced by a quarter and the female religious by a third from the mid-eighteenth to the early nineteenth centuries. But, although much reduced, the regular orders continued to play a prominent role during the century and a half when Poland disappeared from the map. Both regulars and seculars would profoundly stamp the religious life of the country, creating a model of Catholicism which was both similar to and distinct from the models found in the other nations of Europe. (Translation by Guyda Armstrong and Timothy Tackett)
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