"The support has been just unbelievable," said Sister Angela Escalera, the local superior of the Sisters of Bethany house. "It's come from all parts of Santa Barbara and outside too. And from all denominations. It's just astounding."
Escalera, 69, a retired notary public and social worker, has lived at the convent since 1964. She is still an active community volunteer, working mainly with the area's many poor and undocumented residents.
Another of the nuns, Sister Consuelo Cardenas, 55, has lived in the building about 25 years and works as a religious education coordinator at a nearby parish.
The third, Sister Margarita Antonia Gonzalez, 49, is a relative newcomer to the community, having lived there about four years.
They have until Dec. 31 to move out, according to a letter sent by the archdiocese.
Since news of the likely sale broke last week, the phone at the convent has been "ringing and ringing and ringing," Escalera said Monday.
Among other appearances in the past week, the nuns have twice been interviewed by Spanish-language television network Telemundo and on Friday by the hosts of the "John & Ken Show" on talk radio's KFI-AM (640).
"We feel real bad for her, getting tossed out of her home like that," John Kobylt, the show's co-host, said Monday of Escalera. He noted dryly that nuns were not the often rambunctious talk show's typical guests.
In fact, Kobylt said, chuckling, "she may be one of the very few we've ever had on. . . . It's lunar-eclipse kind of rare."
Escalera said a longtime friend in Los Angeles called Friday to tell her that he had been so startled to hear her on the radio program that he nearly drove off the road. "But I told him [John and Ken] were just fine," the nun said. "They wanted to help."
Many others seem to want to as well.
Several community members, headed by Anthony Dal Bello, a Santa Barbara businessman who has known the local Sisters of Bethany since childhood, are forming a committee to try to help them and hope to set up a fund for donations.
"We'd like to find some way for them to stay where they are," said Dal Bello, who recalls assisting with Mass at the convent as a boy and later serving as president of the local Catholic social service agency. "If the archdiocese has to sell it, we'll have to try to find the finances to buy it. And otherwise, we'll have to come up with something else."
At the convent Monday, a television report that the building had already been sold set off a flurry of concern from the nuns and their supporters.
But Tod M. Tamberg, spokesman for the archdiocese, said later that the report was false.
The Santa Barbara County assessor's office lists the value of the property at about $98,000, although it is unclear what it might bring in a sale.
Even the relatively small, older homes nearby sell for at least $700,000, according to local real estate websites.