Mission Santa Barbara is one of the few missions never to be totally abandoned. It is the only mission to have been under the continuous care of Franciscans since it was founded. This was a very important mission in the final decades of the mission era. It became the headquarters for the mission chain after 1833.
Starting in 1841, for almost five years, the first Catholic Bishop of California resided at Santa Barbara. Santa Barbara also became a seminary for theological students for the Franciscan priesthood. The mission complex was expanded significantly between 1956-58 to meet the needs of the seminary.
At the present time Santa Barbara serves as a Parish Church, a Franciscan monastery, a seminary for Franciscans and it also functions as a repository for historical mission records.