The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University, recently spent time in Vietnam with Catholic Cardinal Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon and the Rev. Gérard Tran Cong Du, C.M., a member of the Vincentian Vice Province of Vietnam and seminary professor.

The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University, met with Vietnamese Cardinal Pierre Nguyen Van Nhon during a trip to Hanoi this week.

The discussion between Father Maher, a Catholic and Vincentian priest, and Catholic Cardinal Nguyen, who was appointed to his position by Pope Francis in January 2015, focused on higher education opportunities for young Vietnamese students studying in the United States, and an English language and development training program for Vietnamese religious members.

“Cardinal Nguyen recognizes the vast educational opportunities that exist in the West for Vietnamese students, priests and seminarians. We had several productive conversations regarding how Niagara University can be involved in facilitating these opportunities,” Father Maher said. “It was an honor to spend time with Cardinal Nguyen and I am eager to work with him as we discern new ways to build global bridges in the vision of Pope Francis during this Year of Mercy.”

Niagara University has sought to strengthen its ties to Vietnam under Father Maher’s presidency. In January, the university entered into a formal international partnership to develop curricula for a new Vietnamese hospitality and tourism training center. Last summer, about 250 members of the Miền Đông Bắc Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement converged on Monteagle Ridge for a major convention. And, in May, a dozen MBA students from Niagara participated in a 13-day Global Trade Mission to the Southeast Asian nation, marking the first time the annual venture took place in Vietnam.

Cardinal Nguyen was born in Da Lat, the capital city of the Lam Dong province. After he finished his studies at the Minor Seminary in Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1958, Cardinal Nguyen studied at the Da Lat-based Pius X Pontifical Institute. He also obtained a bachelor’s degree in French Literature from a local Catholic college.

Cardinal Nguyen was ordained a priest on Dec. 21, 1967, and then became rector of Minh Hoa Major Seminary in Da Lat. He served as vicar of the Our Mother of God Cathedral and vicar general of Da Lat diocese from 1975 until he was named as coadjutor bishop of Da Lat on Oct. 11, 1991.

Sixteen years after becoming Bishop of Da Lat on March 23, 1994, Cardinal Nguyen was named coadjutor archbishop of the Hanoi Archdiocese on April 22, 2010, and became archbishop of the archdiocese on May 13 the same year.

Then-Archbishop Nguyen was among the 20 men elevated to cardinal status by Pope Francis on Jan. 4, 2015. At the time, Cardinal Nguyen said his red hat represented the challenging task ahead of him, as the Holy See and Hanoi have sought to re-establish diplomatic ties.

Roughly 6 million Vietnam residents identify themselves as Catholic, the second-largest religious group in the country, after Buddhists who comprise the majority of Vietnam’s 92.5 million population.